Cheer team engages kids with clinic

Instead of simply selling t-shirts as a fundraiser, John Brown University’s cheerleaders are also giving back to the community.

The University’s cheer clinic will be held Feb. 21 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. for young kids ages three and up. The clinic will be used as a fundraiser for the Cheerleading program. All kids who attend the clinic will be taught a short 1-minute-and-30 second long performance, which they will perform at halftime during the men’s basketball game on Senior Night.

Emily Pearce, who has 17 years of cheer experience, encouraged kids to come “try it and see if [they] like it.”

“It’s great to find passion as a kid,” Pearce said. Pearce also said it was exciting to fundraise in a way that also gives back to the Siloam Springs community and connects the University with the town.

“Teaching is a really cool way to connect kids with older people, especially when you share a passion,” said Pearce, referring to the girls who are fascinated by the cheerleaders at the  University’s sporting events. “It leads to growth of child development.”

Lindsay Dodson, who has cheered for 10 years, said she didn’t like cheer clinic when she attended as a young child, but she now “knows the experiences she wants the girls to have.”

Dodson said it is important to have kids begin cheer while they are still young because it begins to “exercise their brain” and prepare them for the sport.

Claire Grant, who is in her first year of cheer, agreed with Dodson. She expressed that kids would learn skills that they would remember later, including balance and easy stunts. Grant said that all the kids will probably learn a cheer, stunt and dance. She did point out that the cheer team had not yet begun preparing for the clinic and that she did not know quite what it would look like yet.

“The stunts won’t be hard,” Grant said. “They’ll just be thigh stands or something easy, butit’s a good start…they’ll be learning vital skills to cheer.”

“It’s going to be a busy two weeks with family weekend and then preparing for Senior Night,” Pearce said. “Everyone’s really excited, but we all love kids and have a heart for them.”

Rachel Baack, second year cheer team member, said she is expecting the experience to be a lot of fun. She mentioned that it is something the whole team is looking forward to.

“Coach suggested it and everyone said ‘oh yeah!’” Baack said. “The little kids are all so cute. It doesn’t even matter if they mess up or don’t do everything perfectly.”

The money raised through the clinic will help the program purchase new equipment that they need, such as new mats and possibly new pom-poms.

Grant said the mats are the main priority because the ones they are currently using are old.

“It’s illegal to do stunts without a mat,” Grant said, “The ones we have are really cracked.”

Baack said she hopes to leave the kids with good memories of the University. Grant echoed  this sentiment when she said that many of the young girls who attend basketball games tell her they want to be a cheerleader at the University when they grow up.

“When the girls at the basketball games heard we are having a cheer clinic, their faces lit up,” Grant said, smiling. “It’s a community thing. We’re connecting JBU to the community.”