Coach Jenny Casquejo. Kayla Desroches/KMXT
Imagine standing on one leg with your hands in the air. It could be a challenge depending on your sense of balance, but I bet you could do it.
Now imagine you’re five feet above the ground with other people holding you there. Does it seem a little dangerous? Well, it is – but that’s the kind of acrobatic routine Kodiak varsity cheerleaders perform on a regular basis, and one that they demonstrated for a camp of aspiring cheerleaders this past Friday and Saturday.
The camp is for kids in kindergarten through 8th grade and will help raise money for the high school team to compete in the State Cheerleading Competition. It may also be the first taste many of the campers get of what it takes to be a cheerleader.
Members of the varsity team lead a group of kindergartners and first graders through a routine they just taught them. It’s part of the cheer and dance they’ll perform at the basketball game Saturday.
During a demonstration for the young students, the varsity team shows how important practice is when they fail to catch a student on her way down from a position high above the ground.
It’s okay because there’s a mat beneath them now – but it won’t be there when it’s game time. Which is why Coach Jenny Casquejo has a consequence ready for when her team does drop someone.
“They do the pushups because they need to learn that they need to catch themselves, they need to catch each other. Safety’s first, so they need to take it seriously or will have an injury. They know these stunts. Sometimes they get nervous, but they need to remember to stay tight, because it is dangerous, and we don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
She says cheerleading teaches students teamwork.
“Especially in stunting everybody has to work together. No one person is more important in a stunt group. You have to build some trust. It also teaches hard work because we practice every single day. The only day we have off is on Sunday, so it teaches dedication.”
The team will need that to practice for the upcoming state competition in Anchorage. Casquejo says two boys joined the squad this year, which means they’ll participate in the coed division.
“They’ve made the team and they’ve worked hard ever since, so I’m really happy to have boys on the team. They have to come to practice every day, they are held to the same standards. They have to work hard and they do, and the only difference is that at the games, they usually have a megaphone, so they don’t have to do all the moves, but at practice they have to do all the moves.”
All 12 varsity team members are volunteering with the campers today. Anika Viray is one of them and says this is her first year cheerleading.
She says learning can be difficult at first.
“’Cause you have to learn to be loud and happy 24/7. Especially at a game.”
“Are you a shy person?” I ask.
“Yeah, that’s kinda of why I joined because I’ve got to get out of my comfort zone sometimes.”
So, along with team work and dedication, cheerleading may teach students to speak just a little louder in class.
The group is actively fundraising for their travel costs, which Casquejo estimates will be around $3,000. They held the Polar Bear Plunge several weeks ago and are planning a bake sale in the near future. If all goes well, they’ll fly out in March fully funded.