“It’s not Marcia Brady’s cheerleading anymore.”
That’s what Dannis Zazueta, head coach for the Mountain View High School spiritline told me at Friday night’s football game. The Mountain View cheer and pom squads are the current Arizona 5A state champions and have had an excellent cheer program for years. “A lot of these girls have wanted to be Toro cheerleaders since they were little girls,” Zazueta said.
Nearly 400,000 boys and girls currently participate in high school cheering nationwide, according to a recent survey by the National Federation of State High School Associations. That works out to about 21 cheerleaders at every high school that participated in the survey.
Cheerleading is far more demanding, both athletically and in time commitment required, than it was a generation ago. The Mountain View cheerleaders practice from 7 to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday, followed by weight training during the school’s second hour.
“These girls are all top athletes,” Zazueta said. Most, if not all, of the Mountain View cheerleaders are accomplished gymnasts or dancers. The girls are also tough. Cheerleading has the highest rate of injuries of any high school sport. Higher than football, basketball, soccer or anything else you could think of.
Providing a spiritline at football games is only part of what these girls do. At state and national competitions they perform routines that are far more intricate and physically demanding than anything they do on the sidelines of a football field. This year’s Arizona Spiritline State Championship will be on January 30, 2010 at Tim’s Toyota Center in Prescott Valley. The national championship will take place at Disneyland in March.
“What else should people know about cheerleading?” I asked Zazueta.
“Most of our girls are on honor roll and at the top of their class,” the coach said proudly. — Dan Barr