If you’ve ever watched “Bring it on,” then you know that the cheerleaders are gyms, too, “except for bars, bars, nothing.”
“I think people got a glimpse of what high school cheerleading is all about,” Julie Peterson said, recalling the impact “Bring” had on viewers.
“The people who were hired to do the routines in that movie (outside of the acting) were an inspiration. There were amazing actors in that movie, like, the skills weren’t fake. They’re great!”
Madeline Pflasterer-Jennerjohn won the Division 1 Madison Memorial WIAA championship on Saturday
As the co-owner of Fury Athletics, a cheer and stomping gym on Madison’s Far East Side that trains competitive and performance teams of all levels, Peterson knows what he’s talking about.
“The outside world sees cheerleading, they think the Dallas Cowboys are cheerleading. That’s not cheerleading, that’s the dance team,” Peterson said. “All Star Cheerleading is competitively motivated. We don’t root for anyone, we don’t side with anyone else. We cheer for each other.”
At the cheer and stomp gym at 4009 Felland Road, Peterson focuses on building strong, safe and cohesive teams.
“I think people think about happiness, and they think … it’s all about looks, it’s all about making boys happy — and it’s really not about that,” Peterson said. “So that’s the hard part. Or on the other hand, people are like, ‘Cheerleading is not a sport.’ I will let people think whatever they think, because I know what it is. I know my children know what it is.
“That has been difficult for decades. It was difficult when I was young to explain the joy to other people, and it is still difficult now. We are not a public sport.”
The Davenport, Iowa, native was very happy before moving to Madison with her current husband to support her in high school.
Her cheerleading career began in high school as a cheerleader at her small Catholic high school, before participating in All Star cheerleading for the remainder of high school – a separate program started by cheerleaders that only does competitively.
“(In college), I was kind of in one of those awkward moments, where I’m like, ‘What should I do?'” Peterson recalled. “And finally I was like, ‘I think I’m done.’
Peterson hasn’t been well for more than a year as she begins the second half of her college career, but the sport isn’t done for her yet.
Julie Peterson coaches Genesis, a senior All Star team, at Fury Athletics, a cheerleading and tumbling gym. “The outside world sees a lack of courage, they think the Dallas Cowboys are cheering. That’s not cheering, that’s a dance team,” Peterson said. “All Star Cheerleading is a competitive spirit. We don’t root for anyone, we don’t stand up for anyone but each other. We cheer for each other.”
How did you get back to the world of happiness?
In college, I was working for the local Best Buy and saw an ad in the newspaper for a gym in town. They were recruiting.
So I decided to do it, and then pretty soon they were looking for someone to teach a cheer class. And they’re like, “Well, Julie knows happiness,” so I’m like, “OK.”
So I started teaching cheer class, then I started coaching the high school team…and I loved it.
I don’t know exactly what happened, but when I started training at the gym and in high school, I remembered why I loved cheerleading. I think I needed some time off to miss it.
So when we moved to (Madison), I started working at the Madtown Twisters Gymnastics cheer program in 2007. And then our program grew and became successful. We had the opportunity to go solo, so we sat down with the gym owners and said, “We’re growing, and you’re growing. We’re thinking about going solo.” And it was a hug and a high five.
What part of the game blew you away and you thought “I missed this” at the time?
I think cheering is especially good for the team.
When you’re on a basketball team, there’s five people on the court and there’s another six, seven people sitting on the bench, waiting for their chance to come in, and they’re going to serve whatever purpose the team needs them to serve, right?
When you’re on the All-Star team, there’s no seat. Everyone is relied upon to step up and play whatever role the team needs them to play.
When you’re in great teams, every player puts the team back and does what the team needs. I think it’s not the same.
What is an average day like for you?
I think it depends on the day. I always say Sunday is the day of happiness. It’s probably my longest day.
Until recently we were running a short start-up cheering session on the West side of Middleton gym. So I would be there from 12 midnight to 3 pm and another at 5:15 p.m.
After my senior four team … I teach from 7 pm to 9 pm And then at 9 am, UW-Madison has a club cheerleading team, and they practice here from 9 pm to 11:30 pm So, that means For example, Sunday is 12 hours for us.
On weekdays, I take my kids to school, do administrative things at home for a while…then I come here and coach for a few hours.
I work long hours, but I also have the freedom to do whatever is best for my life. I love that my kids get off the bus from school and I’m home, every day.
What is your goal when it comes to training?
I want happiness to be a common game. I want it to be like football, where every kid plays football for one year, right?
I think (sports like football and basketball) are sports that are always at the forefront of people’s minds. In cheerleading, when we get the picture of athleticism and the full scope of what it looks like to cheer for competition, we get the other (negative) side, too. And I think that puts people off.
If someone comes in here on a working day and watches everyone from 3-year-old children falling down, to middle school kids, early high schoolers who were happy for eight or nine years – I think a lot of kids are happy.
“If somebody comes here on a weekday and watches everybody from 3-year-olds falling down, middle school kids, early high schoolers, who’ve been happy for eight or nine years – I think a lot. The kids they’re excited,” said Julie Peterson, owner of Fury Athletics.
Favorite memory of the race?
There is a lot. … It was 2018, we had a small group of four, and that’s a very high level. The highest level is six.
Everyone on that team was amazing and so talented, so many personalities on that team. When we put this group of four young people together we were like, “This group is it. They’re great.”
This team has been up and down throughout the year, the process has been tough, it hasn’t happened all the time. But when it happened, it was some of the most amazing fun that ever happened in this (gym).
We went to the Summit (the national competition that we compete in), and on the first day you’re basically trying to be in the top 10. So, on day one, we go and we’re in sixth place. Sixth place in the whole country. Awesome!
So the second day, before they went out (the team) was like, “We’ve got to watch this,” “We’ve got to watch that,” “We’ve got to be able to point here.”
Our kids always know some part of the routine – and when they go there it’s like a checklist. Every part was just checking the boxes.
When it’s fun, all your kids have to do is “hit.” That means no deductions. We do the routine without fail. That’s what you ask children.
They went out there on the second day: no deductions, no mistakes, excellent order.
So then you go to this award ceremony and they (go through the ranks), and they have reached sixth place, not us. They say fifth place, not us. So we’re like, “We’re almost in the top three at the Summit — that’s crazy!”
We were acting like we were never there, because we were never there.
We got the second one, and it was one of the best days of my life.
We jumped up and down like we just won the Olympics. Maybe too much, but it was crazy! Mothers cried, fathers cried, children cried.
So, that’s probably one of my favorite happy moments.
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