Cheerleading becoming a sport at HVA

Final of two-school series

Cheering has become more than an intramural activity, Hardin Valley Academy cheerleading coach Julie Gunter said.

“Lots of people think cheerleading is not a sport, but it is becoming more of a sport,” Gunter said. “You have to be on top of your game.

“Most high school programs require the team to participate in a weekly tumbling class at an outside facility,” she added. “Not only does this offer them an opportunity to polish their existing skills and learn new ones, but it also gives them an opportunity to utilize floor space for any halftime or competition routines they might be putting together.”

While gymnastics classes are not a prerequisite to trying out, she said girls do get more points for tumbling when they try out for cheerleading through Knox County Schools.

At HVA, whether or not a girl is required to take gymnastics or tumbling before trying out depends on the program she chooses, Gunter said.

“If you choose an All-Star competitive cheer program [the girls] have beginning levels that start by teaching basic tumbling and move forward from that point,” she said.

A child who wants to be in

a school program, such as

Hardin Valley Youth Sports Cheerleading, learns sideline cheer, which is what they will be doing in middle and high school, Gunter said. But she recommended enrolling the girls in a tumbling class.

“As with any other sport, the requirements and expectations for cheerleading become more difficult the longer they participate,” she said.

Another change affecting cheerleading is the expense of participating. Gunter said an All-Star competitive program could cost several thousands of dollars.

“I have had friends who have spent up to $10,000 a year, including uniforms, classes, competition fees and travel expenses,” she said. “School programs depend on the program, but the first year is usually more expensive because it includes all of your investment pieces and will usually be at $1,000 to $1,400, depending on the number of items purchased and it includes their summer camp.”

Gunter said while HVA school program uniforms are paid for by the cheerleading program and are owned by the school, cheerleaders are responsible for purchasing their poms, crop tops (worn under the shell), bloomers, shoes, bows, warm-ups and camp/practice wear.

“Several of these are investment pieces, and they keep all of the pieces,” she said. “[The cheerleaders] are responsible for keeping them in excellent condition and turning them in at the end of the year. The uniforms include the actual shell or vest and the skirt,” she said.

“When you consider that they are basically a year-round sport, it’s very reasonable,” Gunter added. “I have several cheerleaders who work to fund-raise the majority of their expenses.

“We fund-raise, as a team, to purchase any uniforms needed, as they typically cost $120 to $150 per uniform,” she said. “They are assigned to the cheerleaders to use during the year.”

“I see cheerleading as an investment in my daughter to give her necessary life skills,” Angie Wilgus, mother of HVA cheerleader Cassy Payton, said.

“Because of the different uniforms, practice attire, cheer camp and numerous accessories, we understand the expenses,” said Meshelle Lowery, mother of Meeya Lowery, a HVA sophomore cheerleader. “As a parent, you support positive activities that are of interest and benefit to your child.”

“Our daughter loves cheer,” Mechelle said. “We are so proud of how hard she works to succeed in cheer, academics and other activities. Cheer is a life-learning activity that challenges her ability to be a part of a team striving to accomplish a common purpose.  “That common purpose includes supporting/encouraging school spirit, routines, stunts, tumbling, fundraising and community service,” Mechelle said. “She will take these experiences with her for the rest of her life.”

“The expense incurred by the parents and cheerleaders to participate varies with the type of program they choose,” Gunter said. “For example, a really good youth recreational program, like the Hardin Valley Youth Sports Cheerleaders, is at $225 for first-year participants and includes their uniform and registration fees.”

“Making the HVA cheer team has been one of the best things that has happened to my daughter,” Wilgus said. “It has given her confidence to present herself in a professional manner in front of her peers and teachers. It has taught her how to be a leader and also about teamwork.

“Most importantly she has a lot of fun. Cheerleading is definitely worth it, all the cost and time spent is to develop important life skills is minor compared to the return,” Wilgus said.

“Personally, I absolutely love spending all the time with her and watching her cheer,” she said. “I am at every cheer event, whether it be a football or basketball game or a cheer competition. Being able to watch her put the skills she’s learning to use makes me very proud of her.

“All the dedication, extra practices and hard work are paying off for the team as they prepare for the UCA national competition,” Wilgus said. “What an exciting time, as the girls get ready to compete on a national level.

“Coach Gunter has developed these girls into respectable young women,” she said. “Her desire for them to succeed has surpassed any coach my daughter has trained under. Coach Gunter inspires in the girls a love for the sport, all the while making sure they have fun.”

The girls also compete every year at camp and are cmo

“We compete at camp every year and we are competing this year in other Universal Cheerleaders Association competitions,” Gunter said. “In fact we are so excited right now because we won a bid to compete at the National High School Cheerleading Competition in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 11 and Feb. 12 and are practicing right now to be ready for that.”

To raise money, Phillipy said every year the FHS squad holds a junior cheer camp for younger girls, teaching a cheers camp and dances.

“We have a performance for their parents to show what they’ve learned during the week,” she said.

The squad also hosts the homecoming dance, which is its

More is expected of the girls in regard to their behaviors and academics as well. Knox County Schools’ cheerleaders are expected to maintain their grades, participate in community service and adhere to as code of conduct contract.

“We focus on school spirit, supporting our athletic teams, engaging in a variety of community service projects, appearances and striving to be leaders in their school and their community however, we are a competition team as well,” Gunter said.