Though some people might see short skirts and shaking pompons, area cheerleaders know that it takes athletic strength and endurance to make the squad.
"The perception is 'rah rah,' that the girls like to do it because it makes them popular. But they have to be very athletic, very in shape," said Adell Poss, junior varsity cheerleading coach at Evans High School.
During the summer months, Evans High junior varsity cheerleaders such as Jennings Williams and Megan Dukes, both 10th-graders, can be found at Omni Health and Fitness in Evans where they log in the required 40 workout sessions. Girls on the squad were offered step classes and resistance training to get them in shape for the upcoming season.
Bobbie Guillebeau, varsity cheerleading coach at Greenbrier High School, said as soon as the squad is selected in the spring, they begin training two times a week during the summer. The conditioning includes running, squats, weight repetitions and jumps.
"Cheerleaders never sit on the bench. It's an endurance sport. We're up for the entire game. It's nonstop energy, enthusiasm and support," Guillebeau said.
Training intensified during a three-day camp in which the girls practiced from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and spent nights together. During the school year, practices are after school.
For many of the girls, cheerleading is a longtime commitment and a lifestyle.
Greenbrier High varsity squad co-captain Erin Pippin, 16, said she did her first back handspring when she was 5 and began cheering in fifth grade.
"Erin is very peppy. She's the definition of a cheerleader," said Mandy Finnell, 17, the squad's captain.
"I even clap my hands when I talk," Erin added.
Both Erin and Mandy have years of gymnastics training under their belts and both have served as gymnastics instructors. Erin also cheers for Haydens All Star Squad. Both girls say they are trying to reach a pinnacle of cheerleading - to be a college cheerleader.
And they are ready to put in the hard work it takes to get there.
"I don't think people realize how hard we work," Mandy said. "It's also hard work boosting school spirit. There's a lot of mental aspects to cheerleading."
As much as they give, the girls say they also get a lot out of it, too.
"It builds self confidence. It's tough to step out in front of a crowd, especially at pep rallies when you have to perform in front of your classmates," Erin said.
It takes determination on and off the field.
"You want to look good and you want to make your school look good," Erin said.
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