News - Stand Up and Cheer

Stand Up and Cheer

Carla Morris

GC Cheer Coach Sean WashingtonSean Washington
wandered into the world of cheerleading on a lark.

A thespian as a teenager, he toyed with the idea of playing to a large audience – really large, like a sold-out football stadium. When tryouts rolled around for his high school cheer squad’s mascot, Washington was game to put on the duck costume and get in character to entertain a crowd.

“The costume was much heavier than it looked,” he recalls. “I wondered if my 135-pound frame could hold it for three hours in the Texas heat. Not likely.”

Coaches for the cheer team understood Washington’s reason for bowing out, but encouraged him to finish the tryout process as a cheerleader. Perhaps they saw something he didn’t. He made the team.

Looking back on his 15-year career in cheerleading, Washington sees a wealth of championships and inspired performances. He sees national recognition many times over as a competitor, choreographer and coach. He also sees unique opportunities that came his way to share his faith through Christ-centered cheer camps.

Looking forward, he sees an opportunity to build a cheerleading program with service to Christ at its core. Washington is Greenville College’s first full-time head cheerleading coach.

Cheerleading has long been a part of athletics at GC, but with varying degrees of support. The explosive popularity of the activity today prompted the College to look closely at its potential for growing student enrollment.

All-star teams – cheerleaders who compete without school affiliation – help to fuel a booming industry of gyms, camps and competitions. By high school graduation, many college-bound cheerleaders have invested seven or more years in cheerleading. Like other high school athletes, they want to take their skills to higher levels.

“Previously, only very strong reasons would compel them to give up cheerleading to attend GC,” says Athletic Director Kent Krober. Now, they can have their cheerleading and GC, too.

The low overhead cost of cheerleading and its projected high return on investment in terms of increased student enrollment makes it a good fit for GC’s current strategic plan. Washington envisions an ultimate cheer team of 30 members, common in cheerleading today.

The Record Cover Fall 2015Krober expects the enhanced cheerleading program to also produce an uptick in community support for college sporting events: “A good cheerleading squad that is enthused and does well is fun to watch. 

Superb athleticism is fun to watch too. While cheerleading is not an NCAA-sanctioned sport, there is little doubt about the strength and flexibility all those pyramids, tossing and tumbling require. Cheerleaders joke that flying is their second greatest thrill; being caught is their first.

Generating school spirit is fundamental to GC’s program. If ever Washington’s cheerleaders doubt the enduring value of encouragement, he might share this brief history lesson: Before stepping into the White House to inspire a nation, six presidents including Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, and Ronald Reagan inspired fans as cheerleaders. Before taking a seat on the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg earned a spot on her high school’s cheer squad.

The future of today’s cheerleaders and mascots may be a thought worth entertaining the next time we rise to our feet at their bidding to yell, “L-E-T-S G-O!”

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This story was published on October 27, 2015

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