Deb Malewski
Contributing Writer

The Eaton Rapids varsity cheerleaders traveled to Leslie on Jan. 4, for the Blackhawk Competitive Cheer Invitational. The Greyhounds took third place overall at the event and second place for their division. There were 13 schools participating in the event. Coach Shelby Gould said their final score of 604.1 surpassed their scores from the previous season.
This is Gould’s first season as coach, and she is aided by assistant coaches Sam Taylor and Amanda Mayes. Gould was an Eaton Rapids High School cheerleader for four years and graduated in 2010.
Gould said the team practices six days a week, generally two-to-three hours each day.
“Their commitment is incredible,” she said.
Successes like this draw the team together and motivate them to do even better the next time, team member McKenzie Scott commented.
“I’m proud we did so well,” McKenzie added. “We have really improved since last year.”
“This team is one of the hardest working teams I’ve seen in years,” Gould said. “They work so hard, get good grades and have a strong commitment to each other and to the community.
“I can’t say enough good things about them.”
Eaton Rapids’ Athletic Director Jeff Dassance said the program is definitely on an upward path.
“Coach Gould and her assistant coaches have done a tremendous job,” Dassance said. “Their scores get better and better at each competition.”
“I see the girls working hard in practices, and they really take pride in their sport and that is shown by their dedication, fundraising efforts and Greyhound pride.”
The team was set to travel to Perry for the Winter Classic competition on Jan. 11, with 35 teams to compete against.
“We have a chance to do the same thing in Perry as we did in Leslie,” Gould said. “We have the same skill levels that we will be competing against.”
Gould is currently working with Dassance to develop a middle school competitive cheer team for next year.
“Some of our girls are missing out on the gymnastic skills and stunts to prepare them for varsity,” Gould said. “It would be to our advantage to offer earlier training like they do in other sports.”
Dassance agreed.
“A feeder program at the middle-school level will be one of the goals as we move forward,” he said.
Fundraising is also an important and necessary part of cheerleading. Funds are needed for equipment, team travel on weekends, mats, uniforms, pompoms and safety equipment for the team. Each participant pays $175 to be part of the group.
“They are bigger than the stereotype of cheerleaders,” Gould said. “People don’t realize what goes on behind the scenes with these kids.”
The girls pulled weeds at the elementary schools and received a donation for their work from the school administration. They have run cheer clinics for younger girls and coached the third- to eighth-grade football cheerleaders.
Gould stressed the benefits of being involved with cheerleading.
“They become part of something bigger as a member of the team: they gain self-respect and confidence, they learn to perform in front of an audience, they develop leadership and they learn respect for other people,” she explained. “Plus, it helps them stay in shape, as cheerleading is a great workout.”


Photo by Amy Anderson

The Eaton Rapids Cheerleading Team is shown at the recent Leslie meet.