With enthusiastic jumps, and rousing chants, the 4th and 5th grade girls of the Amidon-Bowen cheerleading squad demonstrated pride in their school and introduced some motivational pep to the boys’ basketball season.
“The whole point of cheerleading is to be a positive role model who other kids want to be like,” said the girls’ coach, Lindsey Young, adding that the allure of being on the squad helped the girls stay motivated and well-behaved in their classes and brought a palpable sense of school spirit to the basketball games.
The cheerleaders’ enthusiasm—in their candy striped skirts and waving their pom-poms–was contagious. They performed during the basketball games with routines every quarter and at half-time. Once, the boys’ basketball team stayed on the court during half-time instead of returning to their locker room in order to show their support for the cheerleaders. It was a moment of community and team spirit that demonstrated the important role a vibrant athletic program can have in a school’s cohesion.
Combined with the health benefits, lessons in sportsmanship, competition and self-control, such moments – when the intangible benefits of athletics bring vibrancy and pride to a school community – impelled Principal Izabela Miller’s push to reinstate the Amidon-Bowen athletics program, which had lain dormant for several years prior to the fall of 2012. The various teams have met with an enthusiastic response from students, teachers, coaches and the community, and cheerleading offered the perfect complement to the boys’ basketball program. As luck would have it, the school had a seasoned cheerleader already on staff.
Ms. Young has taught first grade at Amidon-Bowen for the last two years and is no stranger to the world of competitive cheerleading. She began cheerleading as a 13-year old and became captain of her high school’s varsity cheerleading squad in East Brunswick, NJ. Upon graduating, she opted to continue cheerleading in a club capacity at Penn State so that she could focus on her academic interests as well. She exudes the enthusiastic, positive spirit that defines the sport.
“Ms. Young is a real-life cheerleader,” said Principal Izabela Miller. “She is positive, optimistic, and never settles for anything less than the best her student-athletes have to offer.”
After completing her BA, Ms. Young remained at Penn State to pursue her Master’s in Special Education. In her time at Amidon-Bowen, she has found an outlet for her twin passions of teaching and cheerleading, and she looks forward to taking the cheerleading program to the next level next year, when the girls will compete in DC’s spring cheerleading competition.
With a roster of 12 girls who actively participated in the program this year, Ms. Young believes that the numbers will rise to 15-20 girls next year. She and her assistant coach Christine Anderson also intend to include 3rd grade girls in practice sessions.
Practices, which took place four days a week from 3:30-4:30, consisted of warm-ups, cardio exercises, strength-building routines like crunches and pushups, and stretching. The girls would practice different stunts, dances, cheers and chants, sometimes making up words and rhythms on their own.
“They practiced their cheers at recess, they made up their own cheers and taught me,” said Ms. Young. “It was gratifying and exciting to see that they cared about it so much.”
By Lucy Rojansky