SPORTS: Trust and team building

Stunt cheer is added as a new spring sport

The athletic community at SCHS has welcomed a new spring sport to its repertoire this year: stunt cheer. It revolves around intricate acrobatic movements that require strength, teamwork and trust. The SCHS stunt cheer team is competing against neighboring schools, including Wilcox, as well as more distant schools that are located in the Blossom Valley Athletic League, such as Pioneer and Sequoia High School.

Junior Kaitlyn Venator, one of three captains on the team, explained that competitions are one hour long and consist of four quarters. A team will perform different stunts each quarter indicated by the captain. These include individual, pyramid, jumping and tumbling. Stunts are ranked from level one to six, with six being the hardest. Both teams perform the same routine at the same time, and whoever has a more efficient display will earn a point. The team with the most points at the end will win. Although the stunt cheer team has not successfully learned the harder routines, they are striving to get better.

“Level six and level five are really, really hard. We’re trying our best to get up there, but we’re not there yet, unfortunately,” Venator said. “It’s the same set for the entire season, but at the moment, pretty much all the teams we’ve gone up against are up to level three because it’s really hard to learn.”

Senior Sophia Rodiguez, another team captain, has been a flier for SCHS Spirit Squad for four years, which has given her prior experience on featured exercises in competitions. She noted many of the girls on the stunt cheer team, however, are not from the spirit squad.

“Since we’re limited on time, our coach couldn’t teach them step by step grips and how to get up, so we kind of threw them in there,” Rodriguez said. “It’s been pretty difficult for them to learn, but I feel like they’re starting to grow and really get the hang of it. It’s cool to see them really learn.”

According to Venator, teammates will surround the flier to ensure their safety when learning new stunts since many of the girls have never attempted some exercises.

“There is a rule where fliers don’t touch the ground,” Venator said. “If you’re in a stunt and your flier falls and she touches the ground, everyone runs, everyone gets punished as a group.”

Venator mentioned that the team is evenly split when it comes to experience. Half of the team has participated in competition, or sideline cheer in the past, and the other half is completely new. They take this into account when competing to make sure that everyone is comfortable.

“If we can’t do something, we make sure in a competition to forfeit,” Rodriguez said. “Safety is the one rule, and we always try our hardest to maintain it when learning new things in practice.”

The nature of stunt cheer is very dangerous, and mistakes are inevitable. Venator is a flier and is currently recovering from a concussion after falling during a stunt.

“I’m dropping anywhere from five feet to 15 feet with no padding,” Venator said. “I could be hitting the floor without being caught.”

Rodriguez explained that spirit squad and stunt cheer share some similarities, but there are also differences, especially in the routines. Venator mentioned that the spirit squad is mostly sideline cheering for sports games. The performances are choreographed by the girls themselves and are designed for style and show. When it comes to stunt cheer, the competitions are structured and the routines are predetermined.

“It (stunt cheer) is a lot more technique based rather than looking pretty,” Venator said. “It has to look clean and sharp.”

Although Rodriquez’s four years as flier on the spirit squad has contributed to her experience when it comes to acrobatics and dance routines, she still finds some of the complex maneuvers to be difficult.

“Since it’s a technique and you have to know every routine step-by-step that they have planned out for you, it is very hard,” Rodriguez said.

Venator’s background in competition cheer and theater has allowed her to quickly remember the complicated routines, so she is one who helps those who need extra support.

“The girls who have it memorized will help the ones who don’t, and we try to make sure that everyone knows their skills,” Venator said.

Rodriguez will be attending Grand Canyon University next fall and plans on joining their cheer club. She explained that it has been a rapidly growing sport in college and has become extremely competitive. Although stunt cheer is new to SCHS, she has high hopes for the program.

“I think when I graduate, I do want to see the stunt program grow,” Rodriguez said. “I think it could use a lot of new members. I know it’s very scary and people might not think it’s for them, but if they stay in it for a little while, I think they might really like it.”

Rodriguez believes she has gained many attributes from stunt cheer including physical strength alongside a healthier well-being. She found that stunt cheer has been a great team building experience, and has encouraged her to build trust with those around her.

“I think honestly, even if we don’t win our games, I think I’m most excited for just ending the year with doing something I love,” Rodriguez said.