Community, athleticism and pride: These reasons, said former head coach James Underwood, are why he sees his students step up to the challenge of becoming junior cheerleaders. Junior cheer’s 2017–18 season ended strong in February, when they won 2nd place at state for the second year running. “It was very rewarding for sure,” Underwood said.
Being part of the team makes a huge impact on the cheerleaders’ lives. “The junior cheer kids are very proud to wear their junior cheer gear, and they’re proud to be part of the program,” he said. “Once you’re part of a program like this, you’re part of something bigger than yourself, and your actions impact others.”
Underwood has enjoyed the process of building the program from the ground up with Willamalane, starting in 2013. They’ve grown the cheer program from being a short camp—now the season lasts 10 months of the year. Because of high demand, they also started offering minis and youth cheer for elementary schoolers. Underwood says that a majority of his junior cheerleaders move on to Thurston High School cheer. Having prior experience tumbling, dancing and stunting gives these students a major leg-up. “15 of our 20 varsity cheerleaders this year got their start in junior cheer,” Underwood said. “Even more remarkably, five of our varsity cheerleaders are freshmen. They went straight from the middle school junior cheer program on to the varsity squad at Thurston.”
“Cheer makes our community stronger, because the more adults that care for our kids, and the more kids know that adults care for them, the more engaged kids tend to be in school,” Underwood said. “At the end of the day, I know that cheer makes a difference in these kids’ lives.”
Our 2018-2019 season will be headed up by Cassie Wendt. Coach Wendt worked with Coach Underwood before and is excited to take on this new season.
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Grades K-2. Movement, stretching, tumbling and jumping: Minis Cheer offers young kids a taste of the cheerleading world as they build their basic skills.
Grades 3-5. Stunt, tumble and jump: Youth Cheer builds on movement and balance skills to develop young cheerleaders as they prepare for a performance future.
Grades 6-8. High school coaches and athletes help prepare participants for high school cheer. Different skills are learned in Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced levels.