Cheerleaders go beyond games and into community

As football teams take the field or as basketball teams run onto the court, cheerleaders are there to support them whether they win or lose.

Bonney Lake senior Ailana Bachmann leads the squad in cheers at practice.

As football teams take the field or as basketball teams run onto the court, cheerleaders are there to support them whether they win or lose.

High school cheerleaders are often underrated and over looked but they work just as hard, if not harder than the athletes they cheer on.

Between Bonney Lake and Sumner there are 31 cheerleaders and four stuntmen.

The Panthers are led by Pamela Kacer and the Spartans are coached by Cyndee Meek. This is the second year Kacer has been coaching Bonney Lake and Meek has been coaching cheer for 12 years and became Sumner’s coach two years ago.

Both coaches were cheerleaders, Kacer cheered for Enumclaw High School and Meek cheered when she lived in California.

“Cheer and dance has always been a passion of mine and something I really loved doing,” Kacer said. “I always knew that I would coach high school cheer.”

Meek began her coaching days when her youngest daughter wanted to start cheering, she said. She enjoys motivating, training and developing the cheerleaders to be confident in what they do, Meek added.

“It is extremely rewarding,” she said.

This is the first year in school history the Bonney Lake Panthers cheer team competed in a competition.

The Panthers competed against other cheer teams in Washington and Kacer said, like any sport you compete and try qualifying for state.

“Competition can only strengthen the cheer team,” Kacer said. “All their hard work pays off the moment they hit that competition arena.”

Aside from cheering at assemblies and for games, both schools’ cheerleaders dedicate time to their communities.

Bonney Lake and Sumner cheerleaders participate in parades, volunteer and hold fundraisers.

Bonney Lake senior and Panthers co-captain Abby Wasson has been a cheerleader for four years and decided to become one when she learned how involved they are in the school aside from cheering.

Both Kacer and Meek expect their teams to maintain good grades and set a good example for the rest of the student body.

“Cheering at Sumner goes far beyond cheering and motivating the fans and team,” Meek said.

Not only are they passionate about cheering but they are also passionate about being role models within the community, she added.

Meek sees the time the cheerleaders dedicate as the most demanding part of being a cheerleader. And Kacer agrees. She added that learning to manage their studies along with cheering can be one of the more difficult parts of being a cheerleader.

Being a high school cheerleader doesn’t mean you always cheer for the big ticket sports but for all sports. Both Bonney Lake and Sumner cheer year round from football and swimming to golf and track and everything in between.

Sumner senior Kaitlyn Neary has been cheering for 12 years and said you have to enjoy supporting your school in order to be a cheerleader.

“Being a cheerleader is not just about the cute uniform,” she said. “It takes commitment to your teammates, the school and to being the best you possible. The cheer squad does so much more for the school and community and it takes someone who is willing to work hard and isn’t afraid to get their hands dirty.”

Neary said something that is unique about the Sumner squad is that after every game, they pick up the trash from the bleachers.

She said this tradition has been going on for longer than she has cheered for the Spartans and she sees it as a positive example to others on how to do things at Sumner.

The bonds the teams make with one another and the appreciation they receive from the sports they cheer for and the community are the most rewarding part, both Kacer and Meek said.

“The girls are not only teammates but they become a second family,” Kacer said.

Wasson agrees that to be a cheerleader you have to commit a lot of time and hard work to your school and community. And she added that being “a captain is another commitment by itself.”

She said that as a captain, not only do you support the school and community but now you are the leader of a group of girls who look up to you.

Just like with many things in life, people can hold stereotypes of cheerleaders in their minds without really knowing what goes into being a cheerleader.

“These girls are athletes,” Kacer said. “It’s easy to sit back and criticize what you don’t know.”

The stereotype many hold of cheerleaders is outdated, Neary said. “We have girls doing so many other things than cheerleading,” she added.

Kacer added she doesn’t think everyone supports the cheer squad as much as they should and that most people don’t realize just how much hard work goes into what they do.

During a Tuesday practice a couple weeks ago, one of Bonney Lake’s cheerleaders came down and landed wrong on one of her ankles and has had to sit a few weeks out. Two days later at the Thursday practice, Kacer and the squad were reworking their 16 girl routine to work with 15 girls for the pep assembly the next day.

Kacer explains that most people don’t realize that routines you’ve been working on for months may have to be changed with no notice at all when someone gets hurt.

“You have to work past all the stereotypes to prove to people that you’re not just cheerleaders for the uniforms, but for the success of yourself, your school and community,” Wasson said.

Both squads are never guaranteed from year to year, Kacer and Meek said that every year you have to try out to be on the cheer team. Current members do not automatically hold a spot, they said.

“I hope the girls look back on cheer and have fond memories,” Kacer said. “I feel really honored to have coached such a great team this year.”

Cheering may not stop once graduation is over. Neary plans on attending Western Washington University and hasn’t decided yet if she will try out for the Vikings cheer squad but said “it is a definite possibility.”

Similar to Neary, Wasson isn’t sure if she will continue to cheering after high school. Wasson plans to attend Washington State University.

Wasson’s decision to join the Panthers cheer squad she said is “one of the best decisions” she has ever made.

“I would love to keep on cheering in college but I haven’t decided if that’s the best choice for me yet,” she said.

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