When they're young, say, 11 years old, would-be cheerleaders find it hard to say why they want to do it.
But an experienced cheerleader, such as Sara Clauder, speaks of learning responsibility and how to manage her time and spend it wisely. She cheered for the Juneau-Douglas High School basketball and football teams for four years.
"Just being in any kind of sport makes you concentrate so much more," she said Saturday at a cheerleading clinic in the Glacier Valley Elementary School gym for 16 youngsters.
Clauder, who graduated from JDHS in 2000 and now coaches the varsity football cheerleading team, helped supervise the clinic. It was sponsored by the Juneau Youth Football League, which fields 13 teams of players and cheerleaders, including the junior varsity and varsity high school teams.
"All the teams have cheerleaders and 35 boys," said Michelle Workman, a senior division cheerleading coach. "There's a lot of kids involved in this program."
Chaley Hall, 11, said she couldn't explain the appeal of cheerleading, but a friend had done it in high school and had taught her "a lot of cheers."
"I like the uniform," Kaitlyn Bolge, 10, offered.
Audrey Workman, 9, hadn't tried cheerleading before, but said she liked the stunts. "I like to fly. I like to be the flier."
Tanner Petrie, 7, the lone boy there, said he wasn't going to be a cheerleader, but wanted to try out the clinic.
"I just get bored a lot. So I'm just trying to figure out new things to do," he said.
Several high school cheerleaders led the younger kids in the basics for the six-hour clinic.
The teens modeled eight positions for chants, which are the brief cheers to spur on the crowd during a game and which are usually followed by a rally - a less-organized burst of exuberant kicks and yells. The term "cheers" is more properly applied to the elaborate gymnastic entertainment cheerleaders put on during half-time.
The children brought their arms up to shoulder height on a count of one, then thrust them high above their heads on two. Andriea Workman, who has been a high school JV football cheerleader, walked among the kids and adjusted their stances.
The children drew their arms down, then brought up each arm alone in an archer-like pose, then both arms up like a referee's touchdown call, then clasped their hands under their faces. Finally, they posed with their right arm straight up and their left hand on their hip.
Then they learned positions to go with the chant "Go, G-O, Go Bears, Go," as Niki Clauder, in her third year as a captain of the high school varsity cheerleading team, urged them to call out louder.
"OK, that's good. Everyone was saying it that time," she told the kids.
Cheerleaders in the younger levels of the youth football league will learn about 25 chants, Sara Clauder said. The high-schoolers know about 60 chants and cheers, she said.
After practicing a chant, the teenagers tried out rallies.
"You're going to do a rally in which you yell for your team," Niki Clauder told them. "You don't want to scream," she added wisely.
"It's got to be words," Andie Workman confirmed.
After the teenagers gave a sample rally with high leg kicks and loud shouts, the younger children looked a little stunned. But they got into the spirit of it.
"Toward the end of the day it gets better," Sara Clauder said. "They rally and smiles come more naturally."
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