Friday, August 3, 2012

Cheerleaders and others work just as hard as football players

By Mike Ullery
Chief Photographer

The "dog days" of summer are here. As difficult as it is to believe, we are just a few short weeks away from the start of another school year.

Already hard at work are many area student athletes. Many have been working all summer but schools began their first official practices during this past week.

Many of us have already seen, and read, about the obvious. Football players from around the area have donned their pads and are ready for some honest contact to augment the sweat.

What many of us don't realize, or at least acknowledge, is that while football is undoubtedly king, there are hundreds of other kids out there working every  bit as hard to get ready for their chosen sport.

Soccer players of all ages are working their tails off under the hot August sun to ready themselves for their own fall campaign. The Piqua boys soccer team has already seen a measure of success this season by winning a tournament in Urbana last weekend.

Possible some of the most overlooked athletes working to perfect their skills as the fall season approaches are our school cheerleaders.

Like most people, I have pretty much always seen cheerleaders as a fun group who cheer for the "real" athletes during a game. I saw them largely as a social group.

Over the past year or so, I have become acquainted with a number of our local cheerleaders and their parents. This has really opened my eyes. Possibly it has always been this way. Possibly it is because cheerleading has been rapidly evolving, maybe faster than other sports.

From my perspective, cheerleading has all but ceased as a rah-rah-stand-on-the-sideline group of young ladies.

I now see our cheerleading squad as a group of dedicated young athletes. Yes, athletes. The moves and the athleticism necessary to accomplish some of the cheer routines are extremely difficult.

I have also seen the pain and injuries that these young ladies suffer ... and fight their way through, as they continue to practice with all of the same grit and determination as their football counterparts.
The tumbling routines which are becoming a staple to most cheer squads add even greater physical demands.

The same can be said of our marching band members. It may seem like something that is not terribly difficult to anyone who has not tried, but the skill and concentration necessary to march a routine on a football field, stay in step, in line, (in multiple directions simultaneously,) hitting your exact marks on the field even though you cannot look down to see, while at the same time playing a musical arrangement that is, by itself, difficult if you were sitting in a chair, is a daunting task.

These young musicians put in just as many hours in the hot sun as any other athlete. For a number of weeks during the football season, they will march their show for fans on Friday night, get home after midnight, only to pack up and leave early on Saturday morning in order to compete in a marching band competition.

Many of these youngsters have the same goals as their fellow athletes - to become good enough at their chosen sport to secure a college scholarship.

Hard work and dedication to a sport that one is passionate about does not stop with football, basketball or soccer players. It includes all athletes in all sports.

Maybe an old fogey like me really does learn new things, or at least just learns to appreciate the hard work that is going on in front of my eyes.

As we approach the start of a new season of fall sports, I encourage everyone to support our student athletes, every one of them, in every sport. Think back to how much it meant to you, when you were in school, to have not only your parents in the stands, but members of the community cheering for your team.

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