Photo courtesy of Erin White
The Liberty Bell High School cheer squad was interviewed by Tom Sherry, chief meteorologist at KREM 2, for his Tom’s Tailgate show.

By Ashley Lodato

Each week KREM 2 News selects two local football games, and community members are asked to vote on which game Chief Meteorologist Tom Sherry will visit. When Liberty Bell was selected in late September for a game against Brewster, our local cheerleading squad met Sherry during the “Tom’s Tailgate” event Sherry hosted before that game.

Recently amongst the high school parent crowd there have been heated debates about the concept of cheerleading. In some communities it’s an anachronism. Some parents say that having cheerleaders at boys’ football and basketball games is tradition and should thus be preserved. Others argue that if a cheerleading squad exists, it should devote equal cheering time to both boys’ and girls’ sports teams. Still others claim that cheerleading is frivolous and demeaning and should be eliminated from school sports altogether.

I was a cheerleader for a while in high school. And I know I’m not the only middle-aged woman in the valley with a cheerleading past (right, Melissa Quigley?). So let any forthcoming support or criticism of the practice of cheerleading be read from the perspective of one who has been on both sides of the pompons, which are round, and thus do not have sides.

Cheerleading ostensibly exists only for the benefit of the athletic male ego. Groups of girls in short skirts jump around on the sidelines looking pretty while the boys do the real work of playing the game. At least, that’s what the decriers might say.

But I wasn’t a cheerleader in order to help boys play football better; I was a cheerleader because I loved working closely with a group of other girls to create small performances. I wasn’t showing up for the football and basketball players; I was showing up for the other girls on my squad. Football and basketball may give cheerleading a reason to exist, but I’m guessing that most cheerleaders are motivated by the experience of bonding with other girls, not by the promise of being in a support role to the real stars.

Our local cheerleaders may or may not have caught wind of the to-cheer-or-not-to-cheer debate, but recently they’ve been showing up to root for the undefeated Lady Lions’ soccer team, which I think shows an open-minded spunk.

I’ll admit to being firmly in the equal-cheering-for-both-sexes camp, but I can empathize with the arguments of those on opposite ends of the spectrum. But since none of them have a weekly column with which to broadcast their views, I’ll claim the unfair advantage of having the final say. In a world where critics, haters, naysayers and bullies get increasingly more air time, why not embrace an activity that is dedicated to promoting the messages of optimism, encouragement and support?

PREVIOUSLY, IN WINTHROP

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