Sycamore High School’s cheerleading team is excited to get another chance to bring home a trophy in one of the most prestigious competitions in the United States, the UCA’s National High School Cheerleading Championship in Orlando, Fla., from Feb. 7-9.
The War Eagles cheerleaders will be in good company, with more than 18,000 athletes, 950 teams, and about 50,000 attendees expected at the Walt Disney World Resort. The team has worked extremely hard to get to this point, especially after one of their teammates was injured a week before last year’s competition.
“We had to change the routine. That meant dropping from 12 girls to 11 girls and people had to learn new parts and perfect them in a week,” according to Debbie Burnett, Head Coach. “As a coach, I felt the disappointment that the girls had, and it hurt. However, although last year did not go as we had hoped, it was still a win. SHS had not attended this event since 2009 and while we were disappointed in our placement, we were still happy to compete among the best of the best. We took the judges’ comments and our scores and came back ready to make improvements,” Burnett said.
As part of their strategy, the team focused on building endurance and added a conditioning program to their workouts, she explained. While their routine is about two and a half minutes long, “it is very hard physically. They are constantly stunting, jumping or tumbling throughout the whole routine. Mentally, we really focused on being the best #wareaglefamily! We talked about accountability, sacrifice, and family on a daily basis,” Burnett said.
The cheerleaders held a fundraiser and received a lot of help from the community to pay for the trip. “We are so thankful to everyone who has donated funds to help make this experience possible,” she said. “As many know, participating in any sport or extracurricular isn't cheap. Community support for these students and athletes is a gift that helps create experiences and memories that they will remember long after their school days have ended,” Burnett added.
As the competition draws near, the community can still help by encouraging the cheerleaders. “They've worked so hard this past season and any support, whether funding, a pat on the back, a smile, or saying ‘good luck’ helps to continue building their confidence,” she said.
The team is building skills during this experience which will not only help them be good competitors, but also critical thinkers and caring neighbors. “It has always been my hope that the lessons they learn while on the cheer team will help them be better adults. They are very hard working and dedicated and I am so proud of them,” Burnett said.