Meaghan Blakely, the head coach of the WolfPack Cheerleaders, is a former student and cheerleader herself. She says that before going to tryouts back in 2011, she had many of these preconceptions about the sport herself.
“I came to tryouts and my sister was the head coach at the time, and I kind of got dragged there by her. I did not want to do it but I ended up absolutely loving it. I was amazed and proven wrong,” Blakely said.
After trying out and being on the team, Blakely added that she gained a lot of respect for her fellow athletes. She incorporated her 16 years of dance experience into her cheerleading career.
Mikayla Levy, the team’s co-head coach, says that cheerleading is a very different sport in its nature.
“Basketball, volleyball – those kinds of games are all very long, whereas our routine is two minutes and 40 seconds. So, it’s really high-intensity, really fast-paced. You need a lot strength and endurance to make it through. We jam-pack a lot of stuff in our routine with stunts, jumps, flips and tumbling,” Levy said.
Blakely adds that this year there are two cheer teams instead of one. The coaches decided to add a second team called spirit that is brand new this year and is more for beginners.
“They spend their entire season learning dances, chants and stunting. Just learning the real basics and having a lot of fun. It’s way more about the experience,” Blakely said.
The addition of this new team has helped to further blur the lines between artistic intent and athletic abilities.
“You get that team that is more focused on dance, and chanting and spirit going with some crazy stunts and tumbling. So, they just blend and compliment each other really well,” Blakely said.
Cheerleading is artful in its nature, relying heavily on athletic ability to make it work. Blakely says that any sport can be considered art, and cheerleading is just one of them.
“There is choreography in every sport, it’s called a play, like in basketball they’ve got plays. Yes, it’s a form of art but it’s also a sport. I think that’s where you really get a mixed message of what is art and what is sport, [because] I think there is art within everything. It’s more about the intensity and the physical endurance,” Blakely said.