Column: Finding the pulse of a school’s true spirit


As one of the many Islanders who enjoys attending Shelter Island ball games, I realized lately that there are some things we all just seem to take for granted,

While looking around I noticed things like the cleanliness of the gym, new signs, scorekeepers and security guards.

Then I centered on the cheerleaders, another group of people who are hardworking, add a lot to the games and are taken for granted. Whether winning or losing a game, I admired how they remain so upbeat and positive about their school and their team. They particularly cover the tough job of not letting us fans give up even on the nights when our team is 20-plus points down and are aware of being outplayed. So with these thoughts, I decided to dig into the life of a cheerleader.

With my obliviousness to what happens behind the scenes, I decided to seek out the wisdom of the cheer- leading coach for the past six years, Kim Clark. Unannounced, I attended a practice session on the eve of a pep rally to be held the following day. It was 9:30 at night. The cheerleaders were the last people in the gym. I was impressed by the number of cheers they practiced and the patience and hard work it took to get all these cheers both synchronized and right.

What I found out almost immediately was that high school cheerleading is a time filled with fun, friends and sports. It also helps these young people stay in shape and well-conditioned, along with opening up social possibilities to meet new people. It was obvious to me that the pulse of a school’s spirit is found in the cheerleaders.

One of my wife’s first statements when I told her I was doing a column on cheerleaders was about her disappointment in high school. She very much wanted to be a cheerleader but was turned down because she couldn’t do a cartwheel. She was already involved in everything in school but more importantly I can’t believe I have been married all these years to a woman who can’t even do a cartwheel.

If you are in high school and thinking about cheer- leading on Shelter Island, be ready to commit to a season of practice that starts mid-November and ends mid-February. You must also realize that you at least need to have an upbeat and cheerful personality, gymnastic and dance skills, sharp synchronized movements, a loud cheering voice. (Also I hope you can do a cartwheel.)

Although often argued whether cheerleading is a sport or not, so far court rulings have ruled that it’s not. But watching closely what they do is one reason many feel that this opinion will officially be changed in a few years.
Small schools like ours have the same team doing both the varsity and junior varsity games. On Shelter Island, even though all are welcome to participate, so far it seems that only the girls want to participate.

Like the rules for ballplayers, the girls must maintain the same standards about keeping up their grades and not getting into trouble. Even if they don’t realize it, they are role models, constantly watched by adults and children at and between the games. We are fortunate to have 12 girls that fit the description of positive role models, and that they make what looked like hard work to me, look like fun to them.

In alphabetical order the 12 girls are Jayme Clark (co-captain), Lea Giambruno (co-captain), Brianna Kimmelmann, Aterahme Lawrence, Tiearza Lawrence, Libby Liszanckie, Colibri Lopez, Logan Pendergrass, Alexis Perlaki, Nicole Poleshuk, Taylor Sherman and Tara Sturges.

In our school, we don’t have children going to summer camp for cheerleading, or competing with other schools, so although many universities are recruiting cheerleaders for their competitive squads, we’re not receiving any scholarships.

Having watched a few of the basketball games this season, I feel we have one of our most dynamic and well-trained teams seen in quite a while. The cheering is there to help them play even better, while being a lot more fun for the gals. We hope to find you in the stands at the next home game helping out all the student athletes and cheerleaders, and appreciating what the gals are trying to achieve.

Mark your calendar for the next home game against Stony Brook, Tuesday, January 22 at 4:30 p.m. See you there!