High school cheerleading a year-round job
There is a lot that goes into being a cheerleader.
And no group of cheerleaders knows that better than the Tonganoxie High School squad.
Two weeks ago, cheerleaders from the eight teams that competed in the Tonganoxie Invitational Basketball Tournament were tested on their skills and dedication.
Although there was no competition among the squads, each of the schools' cheerleading teams was critiqued by anonymous judges.
Those results were then given to the teams to help them improve their performances.
Six schools received critiques. Hogan didn't bring a team, and Olathe Christian chose not to participate.
Every team that competed received a participation medal, and all the teams were videotaped during the tournament.
Tonganoxie Cheerleading Coach Brenda Meyer said the video was then compiled onto one tape, which would be copied and distributed to the other schools to be used for instruction.
Meyer said she is always glad to be a part of anything that helped give recognition to cheerleaders, who work as hard as most other athletes but receive less attention.
Much of the reason for that may be that there is little direct competition. Cheerleaders from rival schools compete with each other to win the crowd, but a cheerleader's main role is as a catalyst for her or his school's other teams.
Unfortunately, few actually see all the effort the cheerleaders put into their roles supporting their teams.
"Our goal is to make each individual athlete going into a game or race or match feel like they have the entire student body behind them," Meyer said.
She said that things like decorating lockers, making signs and leading pep assemblies is a big part of that.
Coaches appreciate that, and often try to get the cheerleaders as involved as possible.
This includes handing out medals and awards at cross-country and wrestling meets as well as any of 101 other things that could come up.
Cheerleaders stay busy. The sport is not like basketball or football, which only last a few months. The cheering season lasts from the beginning to the end of school. Sometimes cheerleaders are out supporting their teams five days a week.
"We are year-round," Meyer said. "We go all the way through fall and winter, and tryouts are in the spring."
And the spring tryout season is one of the most difficult times of the year for cheerleaders, who have to meet several criteria just to make the team.
First, cheerleaders have to make the cut academically.
Fifty percent of the score used to determine who makes the team is dependent on teacher recommendations and grades. So, a cheerleader must be a good student first, and then a cheerleader.
The other 50 percent of the score is based on tryout performances, with 30 percent based on talent and skill, 15 percent based on attitude and the other 5 percent based on questions asked by the senior cheerleaders.
"I just really respect the girls who stay with it and don't quit," she said, "because it takes practice and self-discipline to be a cheerleader."