At many sporting events that take place involving Franklin High School, the varsity cheerleaders can be seen and heard attempting to get the crowd behind the home team. During the fall, they flood the sidelines of the football field and the bleachers during the volleyball games and in the winter, they stand behind the basketball teams as they rack up wins. They are an important part of the sporting culture at FHS, but like any other sport, the squad has to put in the preparation and hard work.
According to varsity head coach Vanessa Crisp, a typical practice lasts about two hours each day in a season that begins in May and runs through February. Cheerleaders are required to take the Bigger, Faster, Stronger (BFS) class where they participate in full fitness regimens. Their practices don't get any easier and usually require the girls to run the track, steps, or around the school or a different type of workout to get their heart rate up. Once their hearts are beating, they then must stretch for about 30 minutes before they move on to technique and jumps.
"Jumps are the least favorite thing the cheerleaders do at practice," Crisp said. "We usually do jumps in multiples with various exercises in between. With the hour we have left, we review cheers and chants, work on quarters or half time performances and then stunt. Stunting is their favorite part about practice."
And as if their season wasn't tough enough, the only breaks the cheerleaders see come during the week of Thanksgiving and another two weeks for Christmas.
Crisp is new to the role of head coach, just starting this year in fact, but as a former cheerleader herself she understands the role probably as much as anybody could despite lacking in coaching experience.
“This is my first year in a varsity coaching position. It has had its ups and downs but overall it is something that I have enjoyed. I have not only learned more about myself but the importance of team bonding and being a positive role model for these young ladies,” she said. “I think that the last six months have been a learning curve for both myself and for the cheerleaders, but we are all working together and coming into basketball season with a solid, fresh, and strong team.”
This year's varsity team has 19 cheerleaders in all with eight seniors, five juniors, five sophomores and one freshman. The total, according to Crisp, includes a few girls that are completely new to cheerleading and one that is new to the school.
As basketball season ramps up, the girls have a slight obstacle to overcome. During these winter months, the squad has no other option but to practice inside and in this case they have made the cafeteria the new site of their practices.
“One of the challenges that we have is space. It's a wonderful location, but it has been difficult at times with two teams (varsity and junior varsity) practicing at the same time,” said Crisp.
Despite the inconveniences and the challenges that the team may sometimes face, the new head coach believes that the team can still accomplish what it has set out to do, which is spread support for the teams that represent the school.
“I feel that it is extremely important for the girls to be supportive of other teams. This year we actually started cheering for the volleyball team. We are proud to support our Panthers, no matter what the sport. The girls work hard every game (during football season) to hang banners, make signs and make the run-out banner to show their support,” said Crisp. “We are focused on team spirit and encourage fans to participate with us when we cheer. The girls are encouraged to make their focus on spirit and crowd involvement during all games.”
The team isn't participating in any fundraisers at the moment, but would like to give a “special thank you to everyone in the community who has donated items to the cheerleaders for the banners, signs and all of the supplies” they use as well as thanks to the parents for their continued support.