A new coach is leading the Wellington Dukes varsity and junior varsity cheer squads into the 2015-2016 sports season.
Valerie Watters had her first practice with both squads Monday, Aug. 3. The school had tryouts at the end of the school year before Watters joined the district.
Watters is no newcomer.
She’s been involved with Wellington cheerleading for 25 years. Watters cheered for the Dukes in high school, had two daughters go through the program, and now has another daughter starting her freshman year on the varsity squad.
Watters also teaches aerobatics at Janice’s Dance Studio in the village.
She said the first practice involved a lot of getting to know each other and setting goals for the season.
“One thing they did want to work on is being more conditioned so I’m all about conditioning them,” she said.
The girls will be doing everything from push ups to sit ups and even running a mile at practice. Watters said it’s important for the cheerleaders to build strength and endurance so they can tumble safely and have the voice to be heard over loud crowds.
“I’m expecting them to really put a lot of effort into everything they do but also make a lot of changes from the things that they have done in the past because now cheerleading doesn’t fall under a social club,” Watters said. “It’s falling under athletics so we’re talking about this being a sport now, not a social club, and that makes a difference.”
The girls will still dress up and put on makeup, but that isn’t necessarily to look pretty.
“The lipstick and the eyeliner and all that is so you can see features from far away,” she said. “If they didn’t wear makeup it’s really hard to see their mouths, it’s hard to see their smiles, it’s hard to see their eyes and that’s what you need during a performance.”
The varsity squad has 18 girls and the junior varsity squad has five.
The varsity squad is comprised of four seniors, five juniors, six sophomores, and two freshmen. Junior varsity is made up of two sophomores and three freshmen.
Both squads worked on their “hello cheer” the first few days of practice. Watters said the cheerleaders create a new “hello cheer” every year to introduce themselves.
The rest of the sideline cheers are used from year to year. The list grows throughout the season as new cheers and chants are created.
Cheer captain Olivia Bradstock said she wants the squad to be one that is remembered.
“Our seniors are really good leaders,” Watters said. “They know what they want to accomplish this year so they’re pushing forward and really trying to take control and be leaders, which is awesome.”
The girls will meet two hours per day, five days a week until school starts. Once school begins, practice will be after school.
Kelsey Leyva can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @TWE_KelseyLeyva on Twitter.
Photos by Kelsey Leyva | Wellington Enterprise The Wellington Dukes varsity cheerleading squad hits the final move of the “hello cheer” it’s been working on during practices.