Like the teams they cheer for, Mikaela Beck and her Paradise cheerleading squad put hours of practice into their routines before Friday night.
“It occupies all our spare time. We plan all week for the game and practice,” Beck said. “It’s stressful.”
Beck and her teammates are excited about cheerleading’s new status within the University Interscholastic League. For the 2015-16 school year, the UIL will sponsor a game day cheer competition as a pilot program.
“It’s awesome for it to finally be recognized [as a sport],” said the Paradise senior Beck, who is captain of her squad. “We do just as much as the other athletes. It’s equally as physically hard.”
Beck also was a state qualifier in powerlifting and regional qualifier in track.
In the game day competition, cheering would center around leading a crowd and traditional cheerleading without an emphasis on tumbling or stunts.
“It’s a competition for sideline cheering,” explained Decatur cheer coach Kanetha Hicks. “It’s a good thing.”
Hicks, who is starting her sixth year at Decatur and has been a cheer sponsor at Lewisville and Stephenville, is excited to see her cheerleaders get a chance to compete like other athletes.
“It’s time. They should get more recognition,” Hicks said. “Having a competition will make everyone better at what they do.”
The establishment of the competition pilot program follows the UIL beginning to require cheer sponsors to undergo safety and concussion training last year. The requirement was at the suggestion of the UIL Medical Advisory Committee.
Paradise cheer sponsor Leanna Thomas, who works with the National Cheerleading Association in the summer, said establishment of the competition after the training requirement is another positive step.
“It’s a start for cheerleaders,” Thomas said. “It’s a longtime coming. We have some girls that cheer that also do three other sports.”
Beck, whose squad won more than a dozen awards at a recent NCA camp, expressed a little disappointment that the first state contest will be after she graduates.
“I’ll come back and watch. They will be competitive,” Beck said.
Her teammate Madi Horne, who was the top All-American at the NCA camp, said it will be some additional work to get ready for the new competition.
“It’ll be new and we’ll have to get used to the school competition,” Horne said. “I’m looking forward to it a lot.”
She’s also looking forward to giving a new answer in any debate about cheering being a sport.
“It’s official now,” Horne said.