As the leaves change color and the the fall sports season fades into the winter sports season, the Pirates cheerleading team is keeping one eye on the upcoming basketball season, while waiting for news on who football will play this postseason.
Head coach Gail Glaberman, an alum of Cinnaminson High School, spoke about a major goal she has for the team each year; keeping the girls safe from the minute they step onto the floor at tryouts to their final stunt of the basketball season.
“First and foremost, safety is always our first priority. We want to do some really cool, eye catching stuff, but we want to make sure they are safe. Our practices are comprised of learning the stunts safely and that we are efficient at them before we try them in front of the crowd.”
Assistant coach Gwynne Perekupka, also a CHS alum, hit on the safety point and compared the pressures of cheering for football and for basketball.
“Our first concern is always safety; making sure our stunts are safe. Nothing goes out on the floor that’s not perfect, that’s not safe, that’s not going to hit. Basketball there is a lot more pressure on the girls because all eyes are on them. There’s nothing else happening when they go out. Football there is always something going on, but basketball there’s a lot more pressure.”
Another main goal of the coaching staff each year is preparing the girls for what lies ahead beyond high school.
“A lot of the times we say, ‘this is a be a decent human being lesson.’ We talk a lot about life lessons. The right way to handle something. I’m not a strict coach, but I’m a stickler for promptness, attendance, commitment and knowing what’s happening. It’s stuff you need when you have a job. I try to instill that in them before they leave to go out into the world.”
Joining the cheerleading team at Cinnaminson High School is a major time commitment as Glaberman views the fall and winter seasons as one combined season, despite cheering for different sports.
“I really try to focus on attendance and commitment. Absences are hard in cheerleading. There are five people in a stunt group. To me that’s one person. They make up a stunt group; if one is absent, I have a five person issue and I need to fix it. The girl on top of the pyramid cannot do what the girl in the back is doing. Strong attendance is the only way we’re going to be able to do what we want do safely.”
From tryouts to camp to regular practices, Glaberman puts a ton of emphasis on team bonding.
“The girls love creating that family environment. We have a lot of team dinners. We play bonding games at practice. We try to break it up a bit with silliness, team games, icebreakers. One of the challenges we have without having freshman, JV, and varsity teams is that we have freshman who are 14 and seniors who sometimes are 18 years old.”
“What I’ve found in all my years, by the time we get to the first game, the age gap is seamless because they’ve really bonded. The seniors work so hard to make the underclassmen feel so welcome and part of it. They create that family-type attitude.”
There are 13 seniors on the cheerleading team this season, but Glaberman has the same message for the senior class each year.
“I think the biggest message is to get the most out of their senior year, to make memories to look back on. I also want them to be a role model for the younger girls. You’ve come up through this program and you want to leave it in good hands. I think they’ve really stepped up to that and have taken that role seriously and try to be mentors to the younger girls.”
The Pirates no longer take part in competition season, which means the girls can focus more on their routines for football and basketball games instead of stressing about their competition routine. The girls are also able to focus more on their social lives and their high school careers.
“Since we don’t compete, the girls can focus on their social lives and high school. They want jobs. They want to go to sweet sixteen parties. It becomes more about their social life at high school. So, we sort of embrace that. We want to be the best we can be. We want to put on a good show, but we also want it to be relaxed and fun and make high school memories.”
Perekupka, who competed as a cheerleader at Cinnaminson, feels not partaking in competitions has helped build a better sense of school spirit.
“It’s more about the school. It’s about school spirit. They are more engaged in the games. They pay attention to the games. They know what’s happening with the football team, with the basketball team. Those are their friends. With the girl’s basketball team, those are their girlfriends. I think it has just really given us more of an opportunity to build community here and build spirit within the school itself.”