A Deep Dive Into Spirit Line

Cheer and Pom teams excelling this season
Posted on 10/07/2022
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by Liliana Webb

Everything from pom poms to practices, bows to being the backbone of school spirit – here is a deep dive into what Spirit Line is all about! Learning what being a cheerleader means from the captains and coaches of pom and cheer was more than I could’ve ever imagined. Each and every student within Spirit Line has to work hard to represent our school, they have high expectations to fulfill, and from what I’ve heard from their coaches, they go beyond that. Our Spirit Line is divided into two groups, but both have one goal: bringing school spirit and pumping up the crowd.

Mrs. Montano, 9th grade English teacher, is coaching for her very first time this season. She discussed with me the behind-the-scenes struggles, responsibilities, teamwork, traditions, and more within cheer.

“The difference between pom and cheer is that pom focuses more on dancing while cheer focuses more on tumbling and stunting,” Montano said, adding that cheer season starts before the semester does. “We’ve been preparing since May. We host open gyms in July, and we also host cheer camp here, but it’s optional. The only reason we do that is because we don’t have a set team until the first week of school to give all students a fair chance.”

The cheer squad trains in ways students of Estrella Foothills may not even know.

“August 8th was the first official practice; we have a professional tumbling coach every Monday for two hours practicing with them.”

The professional tumbling coach is Daniel Fleharty and he's from the Netflix Documentary “Cheer.” According to Montano, Fleharty just graduated from the University of Kentucky.

Varsity practices four days a week and junior varsity practices three. Not only does cheer have tumbling practice every Monday but they also have another type of training as well.

“We have weight training every Tuesday with Coach Hardman,” Montano said. “There are 31 cheers my team can do, on top of that, we’ll see two different cheers in between quarters in [the September 9] game. I feel like the team is pretty prepared for tonight’s performance. I’m a little worried about the rain, though. It puts safety precautions on their performance.”

That morning, Estrella Foothills had its first Pack the Halls of the year where the Spirit Line and Band march through the halls chanting and playing the Fight Song throughout the hallways of the various buildings. Montano discusses band’s role within cheer and how she thinks Pack the Halls went for the team.

“I thought the band was fabulous, they made it fun for the team and it seemed to get people excited,” Montano said. “Mr. Glenn is our go-to guy. If we want a specific song for them to learn, he can make it happen. Band helps with the enthusiasm.”

Montano also discusses the traditions of the Fight Song – Estrella Foothills’ song is dedicated to school spirit.

“The Fight Song hasn’t changed since it’s been in place – same moves, same song,” Montano said.

Pack the Halls is a fun way to get students pumped, and both Cheer and Band do a great job at raising school spirit!

There are struggles that both Coach Montano and the team go through during the season. When asking Montano what the most difficult parts of being a coach were, she said, “The hardest part of being a coach is when they are hard on themselves. It’s hard for me when they’re hard on themselves but it just shows they care.”

There’s so much that we don’t see as students when it comes to the cheer squad, and they have to go through a lot of trial and error.

“We see what works and what doesn’t. It takes everyone to do a stunt.” Montano said.

Chloe Buchna, a senior, is the captain of the cheer squad and she’s the one who calls cheers at games. In order to perform a cheer stunt, it takes at least three to four people to hold up one person – the flyer.

“I let them choose flyers and bases; it’s all about confidence,” Montano said.

Every person on a squad has a role to fulfill every time they perform. Teamwork is extremely important when it comes to cheer.

“We all do our part of school spirit, hopefully to get the crowd excited as well as help our athletes,” Montano said.

During our discussion, Mrs. Montano mentioned that she spent a whole day making bows for her team. She cares a lot about her team, and it shows. Her cheer team is lucky to have her.

“The best part is seeing them succeed; seeing them doing something they didn’t think they could,” Montano said.

For a first-time coach, she’s doing a wonderful job. The team has had a great season so far. It’s all because they’ve worked so hard and have a coach who supports them and cares so much for them.  

The expectations for a regular cheerleader are high, but the expectations for captains are even higher. I received the captain application that Spirit Line also received in early August. It explains that for JV there’s no experience required but for varsity, they must have one year of cheer experience. Just like any sport, our Spirit Line needs to maintain good grades, they must be a role model to their team and peers, must be able to critique and guide their peers with compassion and respect, and they should be an outstanding performer and strive to grow their ability in technique. They must always be supportive of their teammates and always keep things positive! Cheerleaders are expected to have a go-getter attitude and lots of enthusiasm, and their captains are the leaders. They make sure that their squad is staying positive, and they must handle any stressful and frustrating situations that come their way. They are leaders inside and outside of school and go above and beyond the expectations of cheer!

I had discussed what being a part of Spirit Line means to Kelsie Phipps! She is a Senior who is the captain of Varsity Pom.

“I had been dancing since I was 3 years old, so I had a lot of experiences with taking on tasks and communicating – I grew up knowing how to do all these things, like performing, helping with the team,” Kelsie said. “I learned a lot about everything. I’ve had a lot of experience with growing up in a studio environment. I also believe having been on the team since freshman year has helped me gain the knowledge on helping my team.”

I had asked Kelsie what she thinks most people don’t know about what it takes to be a cheerleader and she said it takes a lot of determination.

“It takes effort,” Kelsie said. “A lot of people think cheerleaders are just there to perform. There’s a lot of stereotypical ways people see cheerleaders, people think that we don’t do much. With my experience, it takes a lot of hard work and what I think people don’t realize is that we do go to weights, we do run, we do all these things that a lot of people don’t see.”

When talking about their performance at the first home football game, Kelsie said, “It wasn’t, honestly, the best experience because it rained and got delayed. For me, it was my last first game, so it was kind of sad, but I do think this year our team has really grown. I think we really showed what we could do out there, we’ve done more than we ever have in the past years to really push ourselves and make ourselves better.”

It’s hard enough being a regular high school student, and adding the pressure of being a cheer captain could involve an additional layer of stress. Therefore, how does Kelsie juggle school and cheer at the same time?

“It’s been hard,” Kelsie said. “I did studio dance, pom, student council, all these other extracurriculars, it made me very overwhelmed last year. But, I was able to manage my time wisely. I would wake up, go to school, go to pom, go to studio dance, and then go home really late and then I would do my homework. It was a lot my junior year. I’m not doing studio dance this year, but I’m vice president of student council. I’m working on being organized this year and I can manage my time wisely and go to meetings in the morning, go to practice after school – I know it can be overwhelming for other people, too, but for me, I've always had that busy life so when I’m not busy, it’s weird.”

Kelsie said her favorite part about cheer is learning the dances, and added that cheer has really impacted her life.

“It’s given me a chance to show my experience and perform – it’s given me an extra thing to focus on and be passionate about,” Kelsie said.

Captains have many responsibilities, with the most important one, according to Kelsie, being a good example. Cheer in college is a big deal and I asked if Kelsie would want to continue after high school.

“I’ve thought about it many times!” Kelsie said. “I recently went to a GCU [Grand Canyon University] Clinic for pom, and it was really eye-opening because it is a lot different in college, it was a whole different world to me. But, cheering here has really made me realize that I really want to continue this passion. I think cheerleaders really represent our spirit a lot. For me, I’m very passionate about pumping up the crowd, cheering for the athletes and getting their energy up, trying to get them rallied up for the game! Having cheerleaders helps not only the crowd get pumped up but also gives the players the energy they need!”

Pom has a lot to look forward to this season!

“This year we actually decided to go to Florida Nationals! We go to Nationals every other year, we haven’t gone in two years, I haven’t been since Freshman year when we went to California,” Kelsie said. “We did a camp for UDA [Universal Dance Association], and they looked at our skills and what we have, and we qualified to go to the UDA competition, which is specifically a dance competition. They really focus on dance and pom so it’s a harder competition, but I’m super excited to go and to go to Disney World with my team and have team dinners. Most of us are seniors so it’s really exciting.”

I asked if there was anything she’d like the students of Estrella Foothills to know about the team and she said, “I wish students could know that we really work hard.  We are determined and a really good team together. We got closer and stronger, and I believe that we can accomplish a lot this year.”

The school dance teacher, Mrs. Contreras, coaches Varsity Pom, and it will be her 16th year of coaching! Contreras thinks her team has strong team members.

“They have to be committed to long practice hours, be a team player,” Contreras said. “They must work together. Being a leader is important to me. Everyone sees them as leaders on the campus.”

Contreras said that her captain application is writing an essay at the beginning of the year, answering a bunch of questions about what they feel are the important roles to be a leader on the team and how they will apply those roles.

“They have the opportunity to kind of audition for captain,” Contreras said. “During the first week of practice, we give them chances to be leaders like leading stretches, leading dances, leading side lines, and we kind of watch them from there. In a sense we are judging them, but we are looking for someone who’s positive, someone who’s respected, with good character. I expect that from all my Spirit Line members, but captains are an extension of that.”

Contreras said her favorite part of being a pom coach is “The relationships I build with the kids,” she said. “I’m still friends with girls that were on my very first team and I’ve seen them become adults and become parents; some of them are even coaching their own teams. Coach Maier was on my first team and now she’s coaching the JV team. Being connected with them forever is the best part.”

Contreras said that this will be the first time that they’re going to Florida Nationals!

“We’ve always done the California Nationals,” she said. “We have to fundraise a lot of money to go, but we’re working on preparing for that because competition on the East Coast is different than competition on the West Coast.”

Contreras said she’s most looking forward to seeing her seniors throughout the year.

“It’s bittersweet, I have eight seniors,” she said. “It’s my whole team leaving, and I think that’s why I decided to pursue Florida this year. This is their last big thing they’re going to do.”

What Contreras would like students to know about her team is “They are just as hardworking as any other sports team out there,” she said. “I think sometimes we get the stereotype that things are easy and it’s a “girl's” sport, but I see them as athletes, and they see themselves as athletes. We have a very long season just like other teams. We deserve just as much respect as other teams on campus.”

Luis Castillo, sophomore, is the first male cheerleader in almost six years! He is also the only boy in Spirit Line.

“I don’t understand the stigma around cheerleading being defined as a “girl sport,” Luis said. “Cheerleading is a lot more difficult than what society makes it out to be. You have to have balance, coordination, flexibility, as well as strength just like any other sport.”

As a whole, students of Estrella Foothills should all do our part and respect our Spirit Line! They work hard to raise school spirit for us, and it shows. Let’s support them during this Friday at the Homecoming game, starting at 7 pm!

“Our cheerleaders have more fun when the crowd is involved,” Montano said.