Somersaults for Spirit: Archer’s cheerleaders don’t need a football team


Photo credit: Lucy Williams

The cheerleading team lifts freshman Emily Paschall into the air at Archer’s fall sports pep rally in their first performance of the year. In the future, the team hopes to perform more, possibly at Archer sports games.

By Lucy Williams, Voices Editor

In America’s modern-day high schools, cheerleaders stereotypically exist to support the school’s male sports, normally performing at football games. At an all-girls school without a football team, Archer’s cheerleading squad is venturing beyond pom poms and pleated skirts to find new ways of generating school spirit.

The fall cheer program launched in 2021 and is open to eighth through 12th grade. Since then, the team had accumulated five members. Fitness coach Valerie Moncada leads practices Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 3:30 to 4:45 on the back field. Since the students are all at different skill levels, they work together during practice to improve and introduce new tricks.

Freshman Selah Johnson joined the team last year as an eighth grader new to cheer.

“With our cheer team specifically, a lot of the work is about building up technique,” Johnson said. “We’re all learning together to get to a specific point where we can make a routine with different stunts and jumps and have some people do more advanced tumbling. The early stages of practice are about feeling where we all are in terms of technique. We go over specific cheer slang, and, eventually, we begin to practice for a routine.”

To kick off Archer’s fall sports pep rally Nov. 4, the team performed a routine in the courtyard, their first performance of the school year. They did a variety of tumbles from front walkovers to round-offs and ended by chanting “Let’s go Panthers!”

Moncada said the most complex parts of the routine were the several different lifts the team executed.

“The hardest part is lifting people up because it takes a lot of trust,” Moncada said. “It was really nice to see how they develop that trust from the beginning of the season to the performance.”

Moncada started cheerleading herself when she was 10 years old and continued competing on teams for 14 years. Cheerleading was her childhood passion, and she eventually went to the cheerleading world championships. She said she started Archer’s team to give students the opportunity to learn the skills she mastered in the past.

Freshman Emily Paschall said Moncada’s background and dedication have greatly improved their squad.

“Coach Moncada has been such an amazing coach to all of us because, even though we have a small team, she’s working with what we have,” Paschall said. “She’s been really good at encouraging us and teaching us new skills. She’s been such a positive role model for cheer, and we love when she tells us about her old cheer team.”

Freshman Sasha Poole also joined the team last year and appreciates being on a cheer team that doesn’t support school football. She said Archer’s unique culture helps the team create more independence, so they can focus on improving.

“It differentiates us from other schools, and it’s not your classic wave a pom pom to the ground,” Poole said. “We’re actually doing stunts, and it’s a little riskier and more challenging, but it’s also a lot cooler. It also helps our school bond more as a community.”

After their performance at the pep rally, students approached Moncada to ask if the season was continuing and if there was availability to join next year. The members and Moncada both hope to grow the team in the future, and possibly open it up to more grades. Moncada said, once there are more members, she may extend the program yearlong, and invite the cheerleaders to cheer at Archer’s sports games.

“It’s really nice to hear that more people are becoming interested after this performance,” Johnson said. “I hope to get a wider range of students, maybe more upper schoolers, who just want to try it out. We all come from different points of knowing cheer, so no matter how much you know or don’t know, anyone can give it a try.”

The cheer team performs their first routine of the year at Archer’s fall sports pep rally.