By Martie Thompson
Middle school is traditionally a time of trying new things, while keeping up with increasingly challenging academics. For the 25 girls who are members of the Landrum Middle School cheer team, a busy balance of cheering, fundraising, and community service requires time management skills while providing the opportunity for fun and fulfillment.
The cheer team girls are from all grades, sixth through eighth, and many of them are brand new to cheerleading.
According to Monica Kohn, who has a sixth grader on the team, the veteran cheerleaders are assigned a “little sister” or new cheerleader to mentor throughout the school year. She said the girls are expected to keep a certain grade point average and lead as an example of school spirit, ethics, values, sportsmanship, and respect for self and others. In order to try out, each girl must have three teacher recommendations.
The team is coached by Taylor Leigh Beamer, a first grade teacher and athletic director at Palm Valley Academy, in addition to being Landrum’s head cheer coach. A graduate of Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C., she is AACCA National Safety Certified, and has coached All-Star teams, Pop Warner competition teams and college teams in her 20 years of coaching.
Kohn said the team practices Monday and Tuesday for two hours and performs at football/basketball games (depending on season) for three hours every week. They may also cheer at other events as requested by the school.
The Landrum Middle School cheer team’s hours of practice and performing will hopefully pay off as they compete at the UCA (Universal Cheerleaders Association) Regionals in December in Tampa with the goal of a bid to Nationals again in their Game Day routine and as well as their Competition routine. Last year the squad placed in the Top 20 in the nation at the UCA National High School Cheerleading Championship with their Game Day routine.
Throughout the year the team participates in various fundraisers, including selling discount cards and sponsor tee shirts. Money raised goes towards things such as competition costs and safety equipment like safety mats.
This year the team put on a cheerleading camp, a half-day program that focused on the introduction of basic skills and cheerleading techniques. Attendees learned a routine that they then performed at the Landrum Middle School homecoming football game on Oct. 10 as well as the Palm Valley Academy volleyball game on Oct. 11. Coach Beamer and many of the current Landrum and Palm Valley Academy cheerleaders taught all the technical material and routines at the camp.
Community service is very important to the school and the cheerleading team. So far this year, the cheerleaders have taken on projects including making dog and kitty warmers and toys for the Jacksonville Humane Society and volunteering their time for the Coltman and Baughman Triathlon at Hanna Park. The triathlon took place on Sept. 23, and the girls cheered on the participants and helped keep them hydrated throughout the event. Future projects in the planning stages include a beach clean up and hosting a bake sale to raise money for SAFE Pet Rescue.
Photo courtesy Monica Kohn
Landrum Middle School cheerleaders perform at a game.