They are always there, cheering in the wings as basketball teams surge for the ball. Yet, little is known about the team that keeps spectators hyped and brings school spirit to every basketball game.
Cheerleading is a combination of teamwork, athleticism, and performance. Cheerleaders perform complex routines and brave perilous stunts, all the while smiling and maintaining enough composure to enunciate cheers that reverberate throughout a gym.
Like most sports, cheerleading relies on teamwork. “Everyone has their own job to do. When everyone works hard and does their part, the final product is definitely something to be proud of,” stated HBA cheerleading coach Erin Sugai, HBA alumna and former cheerleader. Sugai has been coaching the team for five years.
In cheerleading, there are four main positions: flyers, back bases, side bases, and main bases. Flyers are the ones who are flung into the air. One of the team’s flyers, senior Sarah Uehara said, “At first, it was absolutely terrifying, being put up into the air balancing on just two pairs of hands. But when I actually went up, I realized it was actually pretty fun. Flyers also take a lot less hits than the bases, because we are the ones knocking everyone else out. I feel bad, but at least I don’t get hurt.”
Sophomore Sharon Chan, one of bases on the team, gave her perspective, saying, “Being a base is hard because we have to put girls up in the air and catch them if they ever fall. We get beat up throughout practices but it comes with the territory.”
Cheerleaders must also possess stage presence as they are the embodiment of school spirit. “In order to do well in cheer, you have to learn to not be prideful,” explained senior Kayla Look, the team’s captain. “We always do silly moves while dancing, and we yell all the time. If you are afraid that people will judge you, you will not do your best. If you’re timid, you can’t werk it!”
This year’s cheerleading team consists of twelve member, the biggest in years. Nine of the twelve cheerleaders are new to the team. “I joined cheerleading because when I watched their performance when I was in seventh grade, they looked really cool, and it made me want to do it,” said Chan. To help them prepare for the seaon, some cheerleaders spent three days at the Triple A Cheer Camp. Cheerleading teams from different schools gathered to learn new routines and show what their team is capable of. At the camp, the HBA cheerleaders honed their skills through drills and clinics.
HBA’s team practices three times a week. A typical practice begins with a mile-long run around the high school campus, along with stretching and strength training. The cheerleaders then work on new cheers, dance routines, and stunts. “You have to make sure your hands are facing the right way,” advised senior Tori Ono. “If you’re not in the right position or your body isn’t exactly where it should be, the stunt won’t go well. Everything in cheerleading is sharp.” Not only is precision vital to the synchronization of the team but also the safety of the cheerleaders. Senior Kaci Omoto stated, “I got some injuries during cheer. One of the recent ones was when I was practicing my basket toss, and I hit my head on someone’s elbow. It’s fine now but at the time, it really hurt.”
The hours of practices, the struggle through injuries, and the nerves of performing culminate in the cheerleading program’s biggest event, HBA’s Homecoming on the last day of end of Spirit Week in January. Every year, the cheerleaders perform a cheer and dance routine at Friday’s assembly and during halftime of the boys varsity basketball game. “I was absolutely terrified because I do not dance at all, and the idea of dancing in front of the entire school mortified me. In the end it was fun, and it wasn’t that bad after all, but I’m so glad it’s over,” said Uehara. Due to time limitations as this year’s Homecoming game was being televised, the cheer routine during the game was cut back to only a cheer.
Although Homecoming may have come and gone, the cheerleading season isn’t over until February when the boys varsity basketball season ends. “It’s amazing to see the process and growth that our team goes through,” said Sugai. “It’s definitely such a big moment for me as a coach, because I’m able to see all our hard work come together and the pride our team has in themselves and how far they’ve come!”