Up in the Air With SA Cheer


Cheerleaders hanging out before the game. Natasha Karlik (grade 10), Meira Mutagaana (grade 11), Alexis Franklin (grade 11), Isabella Alvarado (grade 11), Nikki Golestan (grade 9), Alexandra Cordle (grade 9), Luiza Rodrigues (grade 9). (Kelly Gary/Sewickley Academy)

Nikki Golestan and Ella Sanfilippo

Throwing people into the air, complicated routines, spirit to feed an entire gymnasium, a whole lot of teamwork, and a tremendous amount of skill come together to produce one of Sewickley Academy’s newest winter sports, cheerleading.

The captains of the team, juniors Isabella Alvarado and Alexis Franklin, have both been participating in cheer for longer than the sport has been present at Sewickley Academy. Franklin said she’s been doing cheer “too long to remember.”

“The most challenging thing is coordinating stunt groups,” Alvarado said. “After that, it’s  straightforward in terms of getting the girl up.”

“There are many different roles in stunting groups,” Alvarado continued. “There are two bases that hold the bottom of the feet, there is a back spot that grabs the ankles, pulls the girl up, and helps with control, and there is the flyer, which is the one on top.”

While coordination and communication are already two very difficult and critical elements to stunting that have to be practiced to near-perfection to ensure safety, there’s still more to master when executing these feats.

Franklin believes that timing is the most challenging aspect of stunting. Every single person involved is crucial to the safe and proper implementation of stunting, and in order to accomplish a flawless stunt, everyone needs to know what they’re doing and when they’re going to do it.

Other challenges, Franklin said, are “building the muscle and figuring out how to get the flyer up, even if you doubt you can.”

This sport requires immense levels of trust and teamwork, as well as a lot of strength, both physical and mental.

The hard work does pay off. “It’s always difficult when you’re learning anything new, especially with stunting, but with hard work and practice, it gets done surprisingly fast; you also feel proud of your team afterward,” Franklin said.

For all of the difficult aspects of this sport, “there are no strict requirements for being a cheerleader,” as Alvarado said. “You just need to have a positive mindset and be adaptable.”

Franklin added that cheerleaders are “people who are willing to take one for the team and not be afraid to have someone dropped on you; it’s worth it to have a few laughs.”

While safety is always first and foremost, there will always be falls when practicing a sport like cheer, and keeping a positive mindset throughout is very important.

Sewickley Academy didn’t always have a cheer team; it started as a club similar to the Dunk Department. Through hard work from previous squads and coaches, SA established an official cheer team.

Franklin said, “I did All-Star cheer before and I loved it, but I had to quit. I firmly believed that Sewickley should have a cheer team, so my freshman year when I got an email about it I was jumping for joy because I was so happy.”

Cheer practices consist of stunting in the turf room, practicing cheers and routines and strength training with Ivan White, SA’s Director of Strength and Conditioning. Practicing stunting in the turf rooms is important to make the stunts clean and safe before taking them onto the gym floor.

“We cheer around 20 games per season, depending on WPIALs,” Franklin said. “We only cheer for boys and girls varsity basketball.”

Communication is very important in cheer, and the team captains play a key role.

“We have open conversations with our coaches and share our concerns from both sides,” Alvarado said, “and through that, we can give everyone a voice.”

Franklin added, “We are like a liaison for the team; we talk to the coaches if any of us are feeling uncomfortable with a specific routine, and the coaches are very understanding.” The outstanding coaches are Ms. Kaitlin Busch and Ms. Kelly Gary.

“Join!” Alvarado enthused. “Cheer is a fantastic experience where you have a fun group of teammates and have adorable uniforms, and we have a strong bond.”

Franklin agreed. “Cheer is a lot of fun, you get to learn cool things and hang out with friends,” she said. “Even if it’s something new to you, once you start doing it you’ll know how much fun and how exhilarating it is. You get cute uniforms that are custom-made for your body, and sweet sweat gear.”

A sport unlike the others at the Academy, cheerleading is full of spirit, pride, and a great deal of skill, so look out for our cheerleaders during next year’s basketball season!