The Lady Bears player-cheerleaders in their player attire, left to right: Carly Mitchell, Taylor Teis, Melanie Isaacs and Kayla Chandler. Photo by Don Anders.
The San Marcos Academy (SMA) girls basketball team, like most basketball teams, are pretty worn out after a fast and furious game. Most of the students on the team are changing into street clothes after a game, readying to relax and watch the varsity Bears boys team play. A few of them, however, are changing into cheer leading outfits.
“We have about five minutes to get ready after our games while the boys are warming up for theirs,” junior Carly Mitchell explained. “We just put our hair up in a ponytail and bathe in perfume, and we’re ready to go.”
Mitchell, sophomore Kayla Chandler and seniors Taylor Teis and Melanie Issacs are varsity athletes who not only play basketball, volleyball and softball for SMA, but they are also cheerleaders. The students had a hard time fitting the cheering into their schedules, but their desire was high to cheer.
Said Taylor, “I’ve wanted to do cheerleading during football season since forever, but I always had a conflict with volleyball and couldn’t make it work. Since this was my last year at the Academy, I figured I would find a way to give cheerleading a try.”
Taylor, Chandler and Mitchell dropped by cheerleading practice one afternoon after their basketball practice and asked Coach Whitney Whitt if they could work out with the squad. The students asked permission from Athletic Director Toby Wade to try it.
“To be honest, ” said Wade,”I kind of rolled my eyes when they first told me about their plan. I was afraid it would cut into the practice time I had with them. I told them as long as they promised it wouldn’t keep them from practicing and keeping their commitment to the team, I would grudgingly give them my blessing.”
The girls confirmed their dedication and started going straight from basketball practice to cheer practice on Mondays and Wednesdays.
“We literally ran from one practice to the other,” Mitchell said.
Before long, the three were the only girls left on the cheer squad as conflicting activities forced the other girls in the group to drop out of the squad. When their cheerleading uniforms came in, the player-cheerleaders got their first opportunity to cheer at a varsity game directly after playing their own basketball game and loved it.
“We are a little tired after playing in our own games, but we get excited once we get out there and start cheering,” said Chandler.
Said Mitchell, “The boys’ games are always so intense — that helps keep us going.”
The SMA boys team is 25-2, winner of 17 straight games and ranked second statewide among private schools.
The girls later talked basketball teammate Issacs into joining them on the cheerleading squad.
“At first I thought I’d be too busy to take it on, but I finally gave it a try and really liked it,” Issacs said.
The response to the player-cheerleaders from players, coaches and spectators has been overwhelmingly positive. Said Chandler, “The boys coach has been really appreciative of our cheering for the guys.”
The varsity boys team has taken to sitting in the stands to support the varsity girls team in grateful respect for their efforts. Player-cheerleader Teis said, “The boys have been really supportive of us as a team, so we try to support them as well.”
Wade, who was skeptical of the arrangement admits the girl’s efforts have met with success.
“They have absolutely kept their promise to me,” Wade said. “We have adjusted a practice time once or twice, but the cheerleading hasn’t shortened anything for us, and they are playing at the same level or higher. It’s obvious they are enjoying it a lot, and honestly, it has probably has charged their batteries more on the basketball court.”
The girl’s cheer coach is also pleased with the squad’s performance.
“When they come to practice, they are full of energy and ready to go,” Whitt said. “Even coming straight from basketball, they have no complaints and are always positive.”
Player-cheerleaders, left to right: Melanie Isaacs, Kayla Chandler and Carly Mitchell lead a chant. Photo by Don Anders.Email | Print