Issaquah program gives young girls something to cheer about

September 6, 2011

By Christina Lords

Metallic purple-and-gold poms reflected the sun shining through the trees as more than 50 purple duffle bags haphazardly lined the grass near a baseball diamond in Tibbetts Valley Park.

Members of the Issaquah cheer squad perform a stunt for the audience during an Aug. 27 jamboree for a youth football game. Contributed

To Mickayla Cummins, one of about 65 girls enrolled in the Issaquah Youth Cheer program’s inaugural season, those colors are far from insignificant.

Cummins, 12, has been cheering since she was a young girl, but she’s never been able to cheer for Issaquah in Issaquah.

Until now.

The Issaquah Youth Cheer program — made up of five squads with six coaches — will cheer for each of the 11 youth football teams a minimum of two times this season, cheer director Kathy Corbin said.

“It’s been overlooked as a sport,” coach Julé Gunn said. “But it is considered one. They exercise. They dance. It’s a lot of teamwork and sportsmanship.”

Most surrounding youth football programs, such as Skyline and Newport, have cheer programs in place, and Issaquah had an obvious void to fill, she said.

Organizers of the program were hoping to have 25 to 30 girls initially sign up. They were ecstatic when 65 registered for the program’s first season, Gunn said.

“We have kids in the program who were our driving force,” Corbin said. “There was so much interest in starting it for about five years.”

The program is open to students in second through ninth grades who live in the Issaquah High School boundaries. There are two squads of second- to fifth-graders and three squads of sixth- to eighth-graders this year.

More squads will be added with increased participation.

Each of the six coaches in the program has been certified by the Washington State Cheer Coaches Association to teach and spot stunts.

The girls practice four times a week during the summer and every Tuesday and Thursday while school is in session. They perform and cheer for youth football games every Saturday.

The girls have been working on a half-time dance as well as dozens of cheers and chants.

“The most important thing we’re doing is giving them a foundation in cheer,” Corbin said. “That means building self-esteem. We’re always a team.”

The program pairs a younger squad member with an older squad member in a buddy system to encourage teamwork, and teach leadership skills and about sports, Corbin said.

It gives younger girls experience in cheer before they get to high school, she said.

“The girls have to know the game,” Corbin said. “They have to know the difference between offense and defense. They have to know what first-and-10 is. They have to pay attention to what’s going on around them.”

Registration for next year’s squad will begin March 1. Each season runs from August to November.

“We’d love to see 100 next year,” Gunn said.

Learn more about the program by going to www.issycheer.org or search for the Issaquah Youth Cheer page on Facebook.

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