Published 11:40 am Tuesday, November 15, 2022
Carter County Schools is fighting stereotypes on its cheerleading squads.
Kayne Fair, a senior at Happy Valley High School, is one of the male cheerleaders throughout the district. “Animation may not look as rough as some of the sports out there, but that doesn’t make it any less of a sport or ‘girly,'” he said. “It’s female-dominated, but it’s open and accepting of everyone.”
Cheerleading first began in 1898 by a male student at The University of Minnesota, which was in the midst of a losing football season. A young man named Johnny Campbell started cheering. Other males joined in and soon, there were male cheer squads. Women didn’t join the sport until World War II, when men were sent off to war. From that point on, cheerleading was dominated by females.
Jon Perry and Jaydon Brummitt are on the Warrior cheer squad. Perry was the first male to join the squad, and he cheered competitively.
“I love the team aspect of cheerleading and that everyone has to work together to make anything work,” he said. “I wish people knew how hard it actually is and what other types there are and maybe they wouldn’t think about cheering like girls on the sidelines with pompoms.”
Cheer coach Brooke Tolley witnessed the community’s surprise at seeing the three young men cheering. “A positive light needs to be brought to male Cheerleading,” Tolley said. “I think our program definitely pioneered a way for male cheerleaders in our area.”
Making school history as the first male cheerleader at Unaka High School is sophomore Micah Gray. Gray has played football since kindergarten and he plays baseball with the Rangers as well. Why Cheerleaders? “It started as a joke at first, but I tried and did it. I like to be used as a base and as an observer for stunts,” he said. “Lifting benefits me in my other sports as well.”
The Tennessee Vols have male cheerleaders as do the Tennessee Titans. Trenton Nash, who cheered at Tennessee Tech University, stated, “I’m pretty strong, I did Strongman for a year. Cheer is very competitive and athletic. I can squat 655 and deadlift 735. I challenge everyone to go to one cheer competition and tell I don’t think they are at least ever very impressed with the talent and strength of the athletes on these teams.”
Gray said he and the other male cheerleaders are working to get past stereotypes. “Everyone has what they think. I’ve been called names, but I don’t care. I’m the one around all the pretty girls and I’m having fun and could end up getting a scholarship.”
Brummitt summed it up by saying, “Some people won’t always agree with it and say it’s only for girls, but if you really want to be a cheerleader and you have a passion for it, you just have to do it. Ignore the people who disagree.”