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Cheering about more than just pom-poms now

By Staff
Tracy B. Cieniewicz, Hartselle Enquirer
While the Alabama High School Athletic Association may not yet recognize cheerleading as a competitive sport, Hartselle High School varsity cheerleading sponsor Beth Long said it is hard for anyone not to recognize the athleticism involved in cheerleading.
"Cheerleaders do so much more than just get out there on the stands each Friday night," Long explained. "They have to train to be a cheerleader, a dancer and a gymnast. My girls have spent an average of 12-15 hours a week so far this year at organized practice and a tremendous amount of time outside of organized practice practicing at home and tumbling in the gym. They realize the time involved and are willing to put in the extra effort."
Long said the primary function of a cheerleading program is to support inter-school athletics and to uphold, reflect and project the goals of the school community.
While raising the level of enthusiasm and spirit among students and the community, Long said cheerleaders are also required to reach a certain level of athletic ability to compete. HHS cheerleaders compete annually at the Universal Cheerleading Association Camp, but this will be the first year for the squad to compete outside of camp at the AHSAA State Cheer Competition, to be held at Wallace State Community College this December.
The HHS squad is ground-based, meaning no stunts are performed, per Hartselle City Schools Board of Education policy. Long said HHS cheerleaders work hard athletically to compete against stunting squads and to improve their chances to move on to the collegiate level and possibly earn collegiate scholarships.
"Having the ASHAA hold a cheerleading championship like any other sport is one step closer to it being recognized as a competitive sport," Long said. "It could only help the cheerleaders' chances for cheering at the college level and earning scholarships."
HHS cheerleaders are held to the same standards as any other athlete at the Hartselle High, meeting grade requirements and undergoing drug testing. A typical organized cheerleading practice consists of running three miles, running the bleachers, a conditioning program, and practicing cheer routines.
"They're also held to a high level of leadership ability," Long explained. "Hartselle cheerleaders hold fundraisers, attend meetings and games, and sponsor community events like the Tiger Walk. It makes me proud when people say they are proud of our cheerleaders and recognize them as leaders in the community."
However well liked HHS cheerleaders are by students and the community, Long said they are absolutely not chosen as members of the squad based on anything other than ability.
"Our judges for tryouts are complete strangers to the community," Long assured. "None of them are local and no one local has ever seen or heard of them because they are sent by the UCA. All cheerleaders are chosen strictly on their ability level to cheer, tumble, jump and dance."
Long, who is enjoying her first year as the HHS varsity cheerleading sponsor, said her squad of seven seniors and four juniors has impressed her continuously since she came onboard this May.
"These girls are amazing in every way," Long said. "Hartselle is very fortunate to have such amazing cheerleaders and excellent cheerleading sponsors in the past who have built the program to where it is today."
Long also recognized the Hartselle Athletic Booster Club for their continued support of HHS cheerleaders, including the donation of a vinyl breakaway banner this year to be used at any sporting event.
The HHS cheerleaders will host a community pep rally Thursday, Aug. 25 at 7 p.m. at J.P. Cain Stadium. Every former HHS or Morgan County High School football player and cheerleader is asked to attend so they can be recognized at the event. The Hartselle vs. Austin High School football game will be held Friday, Aug. 26 at Austin.
The entire community is invited and encouraged to come out and support the Hartselle High School football team through the following regular season events this fall:
Pep rallies have tentatively been scheduled at the J.P. Cain Stadium Thursdays at 7 p.m. prior to the following games: Decatur, Muscle Shoals and Brewer.
A Tiger Tailgate/Tiger Walk will be held prior to each home game beginning at 5:45 p.m. Plan to come early and show your support for the Tigers.
Varsity cheerleaders are currently selling game day Tiger Spirit shirts for $10 each. The cheerleaders' goal is for each Tigers fan to wear the red spirit shirts on game days and to each Tiger football game. Each shirt is cardinal red with a gray and white script in the middle. Varsity cheerleaders are taking orders now, or orders can be mailed to: Hartselle High School, Attn: Beth Long, 904 Sparkman St., Hartselle, AL 35640.
Salute to area bands &cheerleaders
The Hartselle Enquirer will publish its salute to area cheerleaders and band members Sept. 29. The special section will feature Hartselle, Danville, Falkville, Brewer and Priceville. To honor your student, call 773-6566.