Monday, September 14, 2015

"We cheer so you don't have to" - By Stephanie Coffin

Cheering: A person who leads spectators in traditional or formal cheering, especially at a pep rally or athletic event.

Linda Parks, who is new to the Windham Parks and Recreations team, is helping to develop a cheering program that involves kids in sports at an earlier age. There are two levels - a kindergarten through fifth grade and a sixth through eighth grade. Windham varsity coach Jamie Gaudreau and team members are volunteering their time to help with these instructional courses. This is a 6-week program and will be held at the auxiliary gym at Windham High School on Thursdays and Saturdays. You can sign up in person or online.  

Cheerleading is an organized activity which involves leading a series of cheers to rally the crowd at sports events. On high levels, cheerleading is itself a sport, with participants performing dances and complex tricks which are extremely physically demanding. Cheerleaders can often be seen on the sidelines at professional sports games, and organized cheerleading also exists in schools, from elementary school all the way through college. Some people are dismissive of cheerleading as a sport, but cheerleaders at the top level of competition are very serious athletes, comparable to top-tier athletes in other sports.

Cheerleading began in the 1880s, when crowds at university sports games started shouting out cheers to support their teams. In 1898, the first documented cheerleading event occurred, when Johnny Campbell led a cheer at a University of Minnesota game. Initially, cheer squads were all male. Women did not join the sport until 1923. Many collegiate teams still have large numbers of male members which have included several well-known American Presidents during their time in college.

Many high schools have cheerleading squads which travel to games along with their sports teams, and some middle schools do as well. Middle school squads are much less physically demanding, and are usually designed to be more fun, so that cheerleaders become interested in pursuing the sport as they grow older. Some elementary schools also have very basic cheerleading squads, in the spirit of peewee football and other diminutive versions of popular sports.

People can see cheerleaders in action at the Windham varsity high school football game on Friday nights. This group will perform on October 16th at half time.

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