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WORLD FOCUS: The art of cheerleading

January 17, 2014
By FRANK SHATZ , Lake Placid News

Cheerleading is as American as apple pie. One of the practitioners of the sport of cheerleading, from an early age on, has been Hannah Murphy.

"I tried many sports as a child, and cheerleading was the one I craved to go to," she said in a recent interview with the Lake Placid News and the Virginia Gazette. "I loved the atmosphere of local football games and cheering on my home team. A family bond developed with your squad, along with a strong foundation of trust. The sport evolved over time and took on additional identity as a competitive sport itself."

Cheerleading originated in the United States and remains predominantly an American sport activity. According to the organization's website, an estimated 1.5 million athletes participate in all-star cheerleading. Although, it started as an all-male activity at Princeton University in 1877, to encourage the football and baseball teams with the cheer, "Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! Tigers!" by the 1900s women joined cheerleading and soon began dominating the sport. Gymnastics, tumbling, dance and stunt work were incorporated into chanting popular cheers.

Article Photos

Hannah Murphy and her daughter, Emily (Photo provided)

To Murphy, cheerleading apparently wasn't just a sport. "Cheerleading taught me accountability and teamwork," she said. "I had a wonderful youth coach who taught us not to blame one person if something went wrong, but look inside ourselves and determine what we could have done differently or better to make it work. This way of thinking has helped me immensely as an adult in my career and home life."

She explained that cheerleading taught her discipline and attention to detail. "There is an inner discipline that you learn when you become a cheerleader. One thing that has never changed in cheerleading is that practice does truly make perfect. You have to want to improve."

Murphy noted that cheerleading has evolved to include a performance-like atmosphere. "Routines need to look aesthetically pleasing to pull off the desired effect of the choreography, and to have the proper impact on the crowd."

She considers cheerleading, a great platform to give back to your community. "My former squads have contributed in many ways. Such as canned food drives, fundraising for those less fortunate and holding camps for special-needs children. There is no limit to what a squad can do to help. It's amazing what 15-20 young athletes can do when they put their minds, hearts and skill into something," she said.

Murphy, a banker, who until recently served as a local branch manager, converted her long years of experience as a cheerleader into being a volunteer coach of the James City Jaguars cheerleading squad.

"Coaching in Hampton Roads has been a wonderful experience for me," Murphy said. "Youth cheerleading has been a great way to bring families from different parts of the area together and build lifelong friendships. It's extremely rewarding when a child's face lights up when they learn a new skill. It's an indescribable feeling when you see a child fall in love with a sport that you love so much as well."

According to the National Cheerleaders Association, in spite of the competitive development in the sport, cheerleading at the school level has remained true to the old traditions. Cheerleaders are seen as ambassadors for their schools, and are often leaders among the student body.

Frank Shatz Lives in Williamsburg Va. and Lake Placid, His column was reprinted with permission from the Virginia Gazette.



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