At Berkeley High School (BHS), cheerleading has never been the biggest deal, at least not like it is in movies or at other high schools in the Bay Area. One might think it’s because the football team isn’t a big deal at BHS. However, it is clear that the cheerleading team is not dependent on the football team and they are successful on their own. Not only do they cheer for other sports teams, but the cheer team competes in competitions with other high school cheer teams from all around the nation. They are even competing in nationals this February. The cheer team at BHS seems to deserve so much attention, so why is it not common knowledge that they compete with other teams?
Melanie Garcia, the unofficial captain of the varsity team, sees the situation as a lack of awareness of the athleticism of cheer. She explained that “a reason a lot of people think that is because they don’t get to see all of the work we put in.” Garcia details the hard work that the team puts in, through morning as well as afternoon practices, training and conditioning, and Monday through Thursday summer practices Garcia said, “People look at cheerleaders and see us in skirts holding pom poms and smiling, not the actual athletes and because of that, they don’t take us seriously, and in turn, don’t see us as such a big thing.” The stereotype around cheerleading is that it’s not really a sport, and that it’s all just fun. But no matter how people perceive them, cheerleaders work just as hard as any other athletes.
As with any sport, cheering requires a great deal of time and practice. Additionally, as most juniors and seniors do, the cheerleaders on varsity have many other things going on in their lives. Although balancing cheerleading, academics, and all other parts of life has been difficult, Garcia said that there is “a lot of new talent this year, and it’s been so much fun.” Thus far, the cheer season has gone well despite all else. Shani Griffin, the unofficial captain of the junior varsity (JV) team, said, “I think this year’s team is fine, they have really good attitudes and are hard working. Each year brings different skills.” It does seem that with cheer, every year is unpredictable because there are always different people with various strengths, abilities, and levels of experience.
Griffin said that everyone who comes to the team has different goals; some people want to learn to do a back handspring, others want to compete at nationals, and others simply want to fulfill their physical education requirements. The team quickly bonded, and their goals aligned.
Cheer may not be one of the most popular or well-known sports at BHS, but cheer deserves much more attention and respect than it receives. The stereotype of the sport being solely about bubbly girls cheering on boys needs to change. Cheerleaders are strong and hard-working athletes who do so much more than support teams.