A sport: Cheerleading continues to fight against activity label


Cheer team at Neuqua Valley High School

Marina McCormack, Staff Writer

At Naperville Central, cheerleading is considered an extracurricular activity despite being counted as a sport for both the DVC and IHSA.

Senior captain Armana Gusewelle strongly believes that cheerleaders should get more credit for all that they do.

“It’s a lot more work than people think it is, truly, and I’d really appreciate it if Central recognized it as a sport,” Gusewelle said. “It’s frustrating because it [adds] to the stereotype of cheerleaders, even though most people couldn’t do half of what we do.”

While most schools have separate teams for the football and competitive seasons, at Central the same team participates in both seasons. Because game days during the football season do not meet the requirements for a sport, all of cheer is considered an activity.

Cheer’s preseason starts in mid-April when tryouts take place for the next school year. After the team is chosen, they are required to participate in camps over the summer.

The cheer season officially starts in the fall when football starts. During football season, the team meets three times a week for two hours and finishes off each week with a football game. During these practices, the cheerleaders work on developing skills, practicing cheers for the games and practicing their homecoming routine.

“I really do love football season the most just because the games are so fun,” Gusewelle said. “We just goof around the whole time and just chill and talk.”

In comparison, competition season practices last three hours and are much more heavily focused on the routine the team will perform for each of their competitions. They also use this routine in their attempt to get to state and for the winter assembly. The team participates in six or seven competitions depending on the season and on how far they go in their attempt to win state.

“Those practices are a lot more intense because it’s [our] competition routine so [we’re] running it over and over again, and if one person falls [we have to] do it again,” Gusewelle said. “It’s definitely a lot more intense, and the coaches are a lot more serious during that time.”

Freshman Paige Lafferty prefers competition season over football season because of the challenge it brings.

“[In competition season] we actually have things to work towards, so it’s harder, but [the challenge] makes it more fun,” Lafferty said.

While the team did not make it to state this year, the girls are hopeful for upcoming seasons. “We did pretty well,” sophomore Emily Orth said. “We didn’t get to state but our routine was better than last year and we had a lot of fun. [We also] had a lot of difficulty which was pretty fun to do.”

Orth is on the Central team as well as competitive teams for Illinois and the U.S.

“Cheer has taught me a lot,” Orth said. “It has taught me how to be competitive, how to work with a team because the sport is a team sport. It’s also taught me how to manage my time.”

While this is only Lafferty’s first year on the team, cheer has already affected her greatly and she believes it will continue to play a major role in her high school experience.

“It’s gonna be the one thing that I will always remember about high school,” Lafferty said. “It always gives me something to do and it keeps me in line.”

Gusewelle is sad about completing her last season but excited to hopefully try out for cheer at Mizzou.

“I’ve never had a team who had so much grit and such a love for cheerleading like this team did,” Gusewelle said. “I was really glad to end my senior year with them.”