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Opinion: Cheerleaders need to think out of the box

If the current strategies aren't working, don't be afraid to change things up.


It's gotta be really frustrating to be a cheerleader.

To spend all that time working on routines, memorizing cheers and practicing stunts, and not really get a response. The audience lightly applauds when the routine is through, but during timeouts, many of the fans – especially the students – would rather look at their phone, talk to a friend, or glance at the game program than chant “Go Indians (or Lions), Go! Go!”

   It's not just a problem here at St. Helens and Scappoose games. I remember the same thing at my high school, where the fans were really there for the free pizza and could care less about what happened between the stands and the court. They'd stand up and yell if you threw t-shirts (or friz-bees), but the problem in this case isn't the demeanor of the fans.

If you're being ignored, change the game.

And before the cheerleading apologists get up in arms, consider this: the fans have a fairly limited selection of cheers they'll actually participate in.

They like “D-FENSE.” The students – though it's not technically admissible by the OSAA – deeply enjoy “you got swatted,” and just about anybody is willing to let out a long, throaty yell while their team is on the defensive end of the court.

Start there. Simplify things, toss a few of the complicated cheers that nobody knows, and throw in a few new ones that might not be in the big book of cheers. The idea is to have fun, and to get the crowd stirred up, so go with the easy ones that people are already familiar with.

Gone are the days where you could get people to chant “shoot ‘em up, shoot ‘em up, RAH RAH RAH!” That's a little more retro than you'd hear at a local game, but it's an interesting example of the disconnect between one group and another.

Right now, it feels like the cheerleaders, the band and the fans are at odds with one another. Everybody wants their few moments in the sunshine. This timeout is THEIR timeout, we get the next one. We just have to wait until they get off the floor, then we can do our thing.

And that's all fine if the idea was to showcase yourself, but if the point of the cheer squad's presence at a basketball game is to run through their routines, dance their dances and perform their stunts, you're in the wrong place. If the band is only there to play their music and get out of dodge, they'd be better off in the auditorium.

That's why I have a problem when I see a group that shows up, doesn't get a response, and it doesn't really seem to matter. At least not enough to switch things up.

A few months ago during football season, Scappoose High School Principle Eric Clendenin approached me to ask what it was about Rex Putnam's game day experience that made it so good. What I told him was, quite simply, everything.

The students lined the field to high-five the players as they ran back onto the field. They had a merchandise shop, several different food vendors and an excellent announcer. It was the first and only time in my life that I've seen a student section who knew all the cheerleaders' cheers.

They're a school that did some out-of-the-box thinking to beef up the support around their on-field product, and though the football team didn't have a spectacular year, the experience was awesome.

Both Scappoose and St. Helens do a solid job of creating a good environment, but there is definite room to improve.

As a member of the cheer squad, your main goal shouldn't be to get all the way through your routine without messing up. It should be a rowdy crowd that follows your lead, as the name of your sport suggests. Take whatever path you need to get there, just don't be afraid to do things a little different.

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