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Small Schools Dream Big

Seward High school cheerleaders have had a lot to cheer about lately. Seward hosted the South Central Region 3 basketball competition, and we as coaches decided it was time to bring back a regional cheerleading competition to highlight our athleticism, spirit, sportsmanship, and dedication. After resurrecting this competition, we pushed our limits at state and came home with not only the gold, but with a determination to continue raising the bar for cheer in Alaska for small schools.

We the coaches being born and raised in the small town of Seward, cheered our high school years as Seahawks. Returning to the cheerleading world as coaches, we knew we had to restore the level of pride that this sport deserves. By our sixth year coaching, as host school, we made the decision to reinstate the region cheer competition. We recruited non-biased judges, created a score system, purchased the trophies using our own personal funds, and extended the invitation to other cheer teams to compete. 

All other cheer teams excitedly responded with a resounding yes. That’s when we knew others shared our passion for what cheer could look like for our region. With ACS, Homer, Kenai, and Seward competing, the Seward Seahawks placed runner up to the Kenai Kardinals 1st place. With the state competition taking on a new format with a focus on sideline cheer in addition to halftime performance, we wanted to emulate the same aspects of the game. Cheerleaders could be judged at any game during the tournament. 

Cheerleading is very different from your average high school sport. In small squads there are no subs for a tired or injured athlete. Cheer requires all participants to tumble, dance, throw one another in the air, all with a permanent smile on their face. It takes tenacity to maintain that positive encouragement no matter the outcome of every game or changing environment. Often, our cheerleaders perform to empty bleachers and quiet stands. Not too long ago, we were cheerleading to crowded, rowdy fans and noisy gyms. The enthusiasm was infectious with a lot of crowd involvement. 

It’s disheartening to see our cheerleaders not have the support we once had. With our ambition to bring back our region competition, our dream is that school pride and spirit continues to grow and we see those large crowds once again. We know that ACS will be hosting regions next year, and we hope to see this competition carried forward annually. When we started coaching 6 years ago, our first step to achieving our goal was to bring our cheerleaders to compete at state no matter the outcome. With every year, our only goal was to score better than our previous year. 

This year with only 4 girls, as a team we decided we wanted to beat the odds against schools up to 500 students and squads up to 12 members. We knew no matter our placement, we were out there to represent what small schools can do. Turns out we can come home with a 1st place state title again. As was the case in 2006, 4 girls took home the first place trophy (I, Haley [one of the coaches], was one of them). This proves once again that a small school with limited resources shouldn’t be counted out. 

After working continually through spring break, enduring hardships with injuries, illness, and absences, the hard work paid off. As coaches, we could not be more inspired by our athletes who share our passion and vision. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for small school cheer.