The cheerleading team welcomes boys and introduces a new co-ed sport to Holt
As the sun sets over the field, the smell of concessions fills the air. The stadium lights warm up, ready to shine down on fans as they fill the bleachers awaiting the upcoming game. However, the football players aren’t the only athletes eager to perform. Three rows of cheerleaders fill up part of the track surrounding the field, ready to excite the crowd. Among the girls stand two boys in the back row, who are also a part of the Holt varsity cheerleading team. Junior Mason Cordell and sophomore Jonah Rodriguez are helping to pave a new path in the history of cheerleading at the school, along with freshman Carter Pham, who is on the junior varsity team. In 2015, 2016 grad LJ Holmes was the first boy to join the cheerleading team in the recent history of Holt athletics. This opened up many possibilities for the future of the sport, since cheerleading is widely accepted as a female-dominated activity. In 2017, Cordell was the first male to join the team, since’s Holmes’ graduation in 2016. He went into it with very few expectations, since he wasn’t sure what the sport was like. “I’ve been told a little bit about it because my mom had some cheer friends in college... but I didn’t really know what it entailed,” said Cordell. This change also affects the girls on the team, since they have had to transition from an all-girl to a co-ed sport. “Going into it, I thought it was going to be really awkward and weird. Now, they’re just one of the guys, and it doesn’t matter,” said sophomore Olivia Bondi, who is on the team with Cordell and Rodriguez this season. The addition of the male athletes also allows the team more opportunities when it comes to the skills they are able to perform. “As a team, we can do more stuff. Stunting and tumbling is more advanced, and they just bring a really positive vibe to practices… I’m really glad they are on the team. They’re super fun to watch at games, and the crowd loves to watch them, too,” said senior Katelyn Habetler. However, a few complications have arisen from the transition. The athletes have been faced with stereotypes surrounding their involvement in a female-dominated sport. “There was a time period where it was hard for me, because everybody really thought I was gay… and it was just a gay sport,” said Cordell. This tends to be what people first think about when they hear that a boy is doing cheerleading.
Since it is known to be a feminine sport, most boys get stereotyped when they join. However, the athletes believe there is a lot more to cheerleading than what meets the eye and that it actually isn’t much different than other sports. “I really don’t think people understand how hard it is… the injuries are the same, if not worse, than other sports, and our coaches work us really hard,” said Cordell. Freshman Carter Pham has run into a different stereotype that is present in the sport. “Some people think that you have to be ultra masculine, super built, and buff. I mean not necessarily. If you have the skill to do it, then go for it,” said Pham. Varsity Cheer coach Gretchen Gibbs has also noticed stereotyping from outside of the team. However, she chooses to stay positive and keep the athletes working regardless of the negativity. “It’s kind of disappointing, but I think we have to anticipate that, and we just do our best and let our work speak for ourselves,” said Gibbs. Overall, the atmosphere is very positive on the team. Said Gibbs, “[The boys] look out for each other and the girls really look out for the boys… It’s all just a big family.”