Friday night football game: bright lights glaring, pep band playing that familiar school song, fans with painted faces sporting team colors, and lots of excitement in the air. No matter the sport, the weather, or the spread, there’s one thing you can be sure to count on every single game: the cheerleaders. They are present, always smiling, always spreading cheer. And, along with those cheerleaders, you’re guaranteed to find a slew of little fans, their faces pressed to the fence, watching the cheerleaders’ every move. Is it the iridescent pom-poms pumping in the air, or the comforting repetition of that familiar cheer, or maybe the infectious radiance of positivity that blankets the crowd? No matter what you think it is, there’s just something about those cheerleaders!
The Lookout Mountain Recreation Department provides plenty of opportunities for kids’ sports, but Lauren Caldwell, mom to three at Lookout Mountain School and former high school cheerleading coach, noticed something missing. Consequently, in the fall of 2017 she approached LMS Principal Ruth White about starting a cheerleading program at the elementary school. Mrs. White enthusiastically agreed and said, “[The cheerleaders] have become an asset to LMS, providing spirit to encourage us all; the youngsters look up to them as role models. I love having them!”
Inviting third, fourth, and fifth graders from LMS, Lauren received an overwhelming response that first year, with 20 girls signing up. “The first year was kind of a trial year for cheerleading. I knew there was interest from parents and students, but I didn’t know how eager so many participants would be.”
The program started as a kind of club, with the squad cheering at school spirit days and kicking off PTA General Membership meetings; however, the more the group preformed, the more requests there were for participation in other events. Lauren realized there was a lot more potential in what the girls could do. In preparation for the 2018 recreation league sports season, the squad learned several sideline chants, new cheers, and even a half time stunt routine. The girls debuted their fresh act at the Falcons vs. Giants regular season flag football game, and the crowd was abuzz with accolades.
Hannah Montgomery, fifth grade student at LMS, played in that game for the Giants and was one of six girls who participated in the co-ed league. At half time, Hannah left the huddle to join her crew as they performed the cheer and stunt they’d been practicing. Hannah’s mom cheered on the sidelines as her daughter fought to grab flags, then rushed to provide background support as the girls executed the stunt. “I love that children her age get to experience several different sports to decide what they really enjoy,” said Hannah’s mother, Caralisa.
The debut sparked even more interest from spectators and youngsters alike. Kristy Presley, a Lookout Mountain, Ga., resident, said that there are several families on the mountain who travel elsewhere for rec league cheerleading. Presley said, “it would be great to have that opportunity close to home,” and it would provide a chance for everyone to participate through the mountain rec league. While providing cheerleading as a rec league sport on the mountain is still in the works, Nelson Williams, rec board president, said that he sees great potential for this to become a popular addition to the program.
Lauren says that the time she volunteers to work with these girls is rewarded when the parents report how much fun their daughters are having. She sees marked improvement in the second-year girls and “enjoys seeing them develop into natural leaders.” While she intended the program to serve as “a fun introduction to cheerleading as a sport,” she is thrilled with the team building lessons the girls have learned and is happy to have brought light to a sport that hasn’t been recognized on the mountain in the past.
Though the lure may be the thrill of fancy new uniforms and sparkly pom-poms or the fun of being with friends and getting to tumble and yell, the more important lesson lies in learning to encourage others when it’s hard to remember the motions or your team is struggling. The sport is more than shining on the sidelines; these girls are learning the importance of spreading positivity in the classroom, in our homes, and on into the community.