Column: Keep the spirit alive!

Published 2:37 am Friday, March 24, 2006

By Staff
I can see my article about the cheerleading situation opened up a huge conversation among area residents. I'm glad it did. Maybe word will spread quickly and fall into the laps of the MHSAA. This is a huge deal for these girls and an unfair one, if you ask me.
After talking with Niles Athletic Director John Danaher about this whole mess, I had a very good understanding of what's going on and what rule was put into effect. Before talking with him, I was pretty confused.
To sum it up, for those of you who did not read the article, the MHSAA has decided that no sideline cheerleading teams are allowed to compete in competitions anymore. Only competitive cheer teams are able to. Sideline cheerleaders are now only allowed to cheer at games and that's all. They can compete in other competitions, but they have to form their own club or join one to do so.
What a mess and what a slap in the face for the Niles cheerleaders. These girls have put in so much hard work and dedication throughout the year's that it's very sad to see it has to come to an end. The trophies at the high school tell the story of just how serious and dominant Niles has been over the years.
Here's what I don't understand. Sideline cheerleading is NOT listed as a sport with the MHSAA. Competitive cheer is. So, how is it that the MHSAA can tell sideline cheerleaders what they can and cannot do if they do not recognize them or classify them as a sport? That's what doesn't make any sense to me.
I understand that some schools in Michigan had their sideline cheerleading teams competing as competitive cheer teams at events, however, Niles was not one of them.
The Niles sideline cheerleaders and competitive cheerleaders never meet up at any events, so where is the problem?
I know a lot of people have been pointing fingers and blaming the coaches and athletic director, but after speaking with the both of them, I can tell neither of them want this to happen.
Katie Paquette has done a tremendous job with her squads over the year's and is very sad to see this happening. She is going to continue coaching and I'm sure will keep us entertained at games. She said she has told the girls that if they want to continue competing, they should join the competitive cheer squad, but most of them showed no interest in switching squads.
I know I have heard a few people blaming John Danaher for not doing anything about this, but after speaking with him, I can honestly say he is doing and has done everything he can. When I called him about this situation, I have never heard John talk so much about a subject. I was blown away by everything he told me and everything he said about the situation. He did not want this to happen, but as he said, one voice isn't really heard over the 700 athletic directors who voted for this to happen.
If you would like to express your concerns to anyone, it should probably be to the MHSAA. They do have a website with contact information on it. Maybe if enough people contact them, something can be done.
Now, on a positive note. I know the sideline cheerleaders do not want to be a part of the competitive cheer team, but look at the bright side. As much talent as the cheerleaders have and as much as they have accomplished throughout the years, could you imagine the competitive cheer team Niles would have? They would dominate all other schools. Niles sideline cheerleaders have never placed lower than sixth place at any competitions they have attended. And at these competitions, these girls are competing against some of the best teams in the country. Now, put this squad together to compete against only teams in Michigan and I believe we would see some state titles.
Whatever happens with this, I hope something good comes out of it. It's never easy to be told you can't do something, especially after so many year's of doing it. In the meantime, just keep the spirit alive for all of the athletes and fans who enjoy Niles Vikings sports. You girls have done a tremendous job over the year's!