In recent years, the original dictate of school cheerleading seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle, with the ever increasing importance and workload of the competitive cheerleading circuit dominating time commitments for some notable programs. Now one school is taking the incredibly unusual step of keeping its cheerleaders from performing at the its football games in favor of a newly formed "spirit squad," which was put together in response to the traditional cheerleading squad's poor athletic event performance in recent years.
According to the Delaware County Daily Times, Springfield (Penn.) Cardinal O'Hara High officially started a second cheerleading squad it is calling a "spirit squad" for the fall of 2011. The school reportedly decided to start the program after O'Hara's competitive "varsity" cheerleading squad began appearing very apathetic at basketball games after determining the time commitment of cheering at football and basketball games and competing on the cheerleading circuit were too extensive for any one team member.
Interestingly, the drive to create the spirit squad branch of the O'Hara cheerleaders was pushed along largely by the school's administration itself, which was disappointed by the way its varsity cheerleaders handled the 2010-11 basketball season. According to the Daily Times, the prior varsity cheerleading squad split up into eight-person cheering squads and split the basketball schedule among those squads. While that approach got each game "covered", the resulting fragmented cheerleading units failed to lead cheers or perform halftime routines at games, leading some school administrators to question why they were even there.
"I attended every home basketball game, expecting to see some change, and saw none," Cardinal O'Hara principal Marie Rogai told the Daily Times. "I discussed with girls at two separate games why they were just sitting in the stands in their uniforms and they told me 'we just want to do competitions.'"
As Rogai pointed out in a recent school meeting about the subject, the duties requested of the school's cheerleaders are, primarily, to cheer at the school's football and basketball games. Because the existing cheerleading structure was failing to accommodate that second goal, she felt it was necessary to start the new group.
Still, while some might agree with Rogai's feeling that there is a need for reform, parents of some varsity cheerleaders are reportedly furious that their daughters are now being relegated to second class cheering citizens at the school's most prominent public events: The O'Hara football games.
"My daughter just made varsity and you are breaking her heart," Diane Tuomolo, who is a former Cardinal O'Hara cheerleader herself, told the Daily Times. "I am so disappointed and the alumni are furious."
Those hurt feelings may not heal easily, but they also show just how keenly Rogai's initiative has struck a nerve. It also speaks to just how different notable competitive programs like Cardinal O'Hara are to the Olympus (Utah) High squad, which refuses to participate in cheerleading competitions to avoid time conflicts exactly like the one that besieged Cardinal O'Hara's squad in the 2010-11 season.
Which cheerleading approach is right, the Cardinal O'Hara competitive focus or the Olympus school spirit commitment? Either, or neither, depending on your view. Either way, both highlight just how demanding high school cheerleading has become in all possible ways.