We didn’t have cheerleading at my school. Or pep rallies. I think we would’ve made fun of cheering and cheerleaders at my school. Because we were scared and cruel and had no idea what we were missing.
My son just started high school and I snuck into the gym for his first pep rally. I almost wept. Seeing all those kids—the freshmen and the seniors and the football players and the shy kids—kids at a stage in life that can be so self conscious and horrible—seeing them all clapping and cheering together and ‘moving to the left and shaking to the right’….it was ridiculous and beautiful and unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
And right at the middle of all of it were the cheerleaders. So I went and talked with them. They talked about why they love cheerleading and what they’re afraid of and what they’re proud of and what they want to be with they grow up. And school spirit…
Thanks to all the girls on the St. Johnsbury Academy Cheerleading team for talking with me, and coaches Deb Priest and Chrissy Carr. For more pictures and info on the team, click here.
Thanks also to Mark Davis for his great advice. As always.
Our Generous Sponsor:
This show is sponsored by Honey Road, one of Burlington’s most popular restaurants down on Church and Main. It serves Eastern Mediterranean small plates. And it’s the kind of restaurant where you want everything on the menu. You share, you eat, they take away the finished plates and bring new ones. In other words, it’s episodic and fun. It’s also woman owned, woman run, and Allison and Cara have made a sane and happy work environment. You can even buy the kitchen staff a bucket of beer…
We all like the bow. This was so great. Go Hilltoppers!
This was a great one Erika…so refreshing in these times listening to girls talking about wanting to be taken seriously and not sexualized.
I love these cheerleaders! i want to be you!
R. U. M. B. LE. Strip! GO!!!!!! Thanks for another great show. I was wondering if you had gone mad, but then I listened, and was reassured, once again, that you are genius, Erica Heilman. We don’t have cheerleading in Australia, certainly not in Tasmania, so my idea of cheerleading and cheerleaders comes from the worst kind of American Movies With Cheerleaders.
But this show, I was pepped, I was so motivated, I wanted to go out there and give it all I had! Go team.
Also, the Honey Road Sponsorship; I like it a lot. If it wasn’t 5000 miles away, I’d eat there for sure purely on your recommendation.
By contrast I recently tried to listen to ‘Dr Death’ (I know, what was I thinking), a podcast about a super-intelligent PhD who turns out to be the world’s worst neurosurgeon, and the ads on that were like ear-torture – cruel and unusual and insulting. My one star review on iTunes says I will never engage with any of the companies mentioned.
Thanks for your message Stan. I love getting messages from you in TASMANIA…!!!! And I had a similar reaction the other day. I was listening to a podcast and an ad came on and it almost gave me a heart attack. It was just the awfulest of the awful. It is VERY NICE to have a sponsor I can wax poetic about honestly…and where I can make the ad myself.
Greetings, I’ve been a fan for over a year and have enjoyed nearly all your podcasts, not only because I live in Montpelier. You generally have interesting topics and 100% professional production. This episode is among my favorites, great work in portraying teen girls in such a positive and affirming way. Keep up the great work.
Thanks Bill! I appreciate your…appreciation. We are appreciators of one another…!
Thanks for the great podcast on cheering and pep chapel. I have taught at the school for a long while, and was a scientist for 30 years before that. My wife and I moved here just so our kids could go to this school. The kids are sincere and kind, and it is a kind of postcard town. The school is modern, but the spirit reminds me of an earlier time. You should really come back to the parade, bonfire, and town-wide pizza party this Friday night starting at 7. It is unlike anything else I know of. Thanks again. Mike Donovan, science faculty
Thanks Mike for the kind words. And I’m sorry it took me so long to post them!
Just recommended this episode to my St. Paul MN podcast club. We can all use a little bit of this joyfulness in our lives right now.
I’m 28 years old and it wasn’t until I listened to this episode that I learned what cheerleaders do. I mean, what they are really doing out there. They are teenagers creating magic for a group of other teenagers. Until I listened to this episode I felt pretty neutral about cheerleading, but the young women you interviewed made me feel inspired by their commitment to encouraging each other and their community. I live in Minnesota, but I’d honored to hang out with them and learn some cheers at pep chapel. Thanks Erica.
What a wonderful story. I graduated from St J not all that long ago (‘12), and still remember the overwhelming and exhilarating roar of the first pep chapel of freshman year. The chants and the stomping and brass band in the corner and all the teams sitting out on the court, each in their distinctive team jackets… it was probably the most exciting thing I’d seen in my whole life! That enthusiasm gave way to ironic detachment as the years went on, but while listening to this episode I caught myself humming along and wiggling in my chair to some of the cheers. I was also struck by the pride and strength that came through in the cheerleaders’ voices – as always, a really warm and dignified portrayal of people.
Julian, thank you so much for this. For listening and taking the time to write…!