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More than just an opportunity to flash a million dollar smile and shake colorful pom-poms, high school cheerleading presents a broad-based opportunity for students to compete, excel and challenge both their mental and physical capacities. In California, cheerleading is as popular as any sport. In fact, a bill has been introduced that would, if passed, elevate cheerleading to the level of sport. This could lead to benefits for participants including school credits and access to additional funding pools.

The Tryout Trial

For young women interested in cheerleading, tryouts are an inevitable rite of passage. At schools like San Ramon’s California High School and El Camino High School, tryouts are typically overseen by one of several coaches or cheerleading advisers and segregated by grade. It can be a grueling, week-long process including a cheerleading clinic or classes, which are managed as an extracurricular activity or after-school program.

Dance routines, cheers, sidelines and gymnastics may all be folded in, requiring focus, skill, memorization and a strong school spirit. Hopeful cheerleaders perform the practiced routine for a small panel of judges and results are usually posted within the next several days. Some make it and some don’t, but the experience can be a rewarding one, no matter what the result.

”Cheer is not only a team-building sport, but a character-building sport,” says Gabrielle Lucatero, varsity cheer coach at California High School. “One of my favorite things about our program is watching girls find their voices and become proactive young adults.”

Practice, Practice, Practice

In high school, cheerleading squads generally gear up at camp, either held on their own campus or at a remote location, like a university. The intensive camp experience often lasts for several days, enabling the squad to get to know and trust each other as well as practice routines cohesively. Grueling and rigorous, the camp experience is also a great deal of fun, teaching young women the value of teamwork, and supporting them to push through their own limits.

Practice continues after camp — typically after school — for several afternoons each week. Pep rallies are often folded in, requiring leadership and organizational skills to come into play. Of course, nothing beats the thrill of the big game.

Yay, Team!

No matter what the school colors, they are required by cheerleaders to be worn with respect and pride at each football game. The cheerleading squad takes on the mantel of responsibility at games by leading the crowd and motivating the team to give their best. A cheerleader’s workout can be just as rigorous as a football player’s, and just as rewarding.

Benefits After High School

Cheerleading is a valued activity, prized by many colleges. It displays students’ skills, abilities and drive to admissions officers and potential employers as well. In addition to creating long-lasting friendships and memories, cheering provides young people with a foundation for far-reaching success.

Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.

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