Competitive cheer makes a comeback after twenty-year hiatus

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Competitive cheer has returned to Bethel College for the first time in over 20 years, and many are excited about the development. "I think it's a really positive thing," said junior English education major Graham Kelly, one of two captains on the cheer team. "It's easy to kind of stagnate a team in just... basketball sideline cheer. Competition really pushes us to stretch our skills... it's been a really good bonding experience for the team to be in competition together." "We're bringing back an old sport, and it's evolved since then so much," said senior Christian ministries major and assistant cheerleading coach Joshua Goodman. "Everything has changed; every year cheerleading changes." Head Coach Alyssa Howell explained the process of bringing competitive cheer back to Bethel. "When they hired me on... they said that they wanted to start building the program into the competitive cheer," said Howell. "My first year that I was here, we were... moving towards that." Howell added that one of the key factors in bringing back competitive cheer was the addition of the competitive cheer sport in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics division (NAIA), whereas before they would have had to compete through the Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) or the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA). "It really came down more to Bethel's side of it, (the) business side of it," added Howell. "They had to go through all that, make sure they could afford to do this, and go through all those steps first... once they approved that, I was really able to get in there and start learning about this division competitively, and recruiting for it..." The cheer team has already participated in 3 competitions and is preparing to enter the postseason. Goodman believes the team has shown significant improvement. "We improved greatly from (the) first meet to the second, which was awesome," said Goodman. "I think this team can compete very well in the future... we can even compete this year to a chance." Kelly also touched on how competitive cheer has helped him not only as a cheerleader, but also as a student. "It's stretched me as a captain, in... working with a group under stress at times, and you have injuries and personality conflicts that you're working through, so that… has helped me not only as a captain, but then those are lessons that can bleed into other sections of life," said Kelly. Howell mentioned why she believes the return of competitive cheer is good for Bethel moving forward. "It puts Bethel out there more," said Howell. "Going into college, a lot of girls are looking for colleges that have competitive cheer teams, and so I think that really helps Bethel bring in more (recruits), because a lot of women are looking for that; and then... just getting our name out there, in these competitions and on social media, showing that we're improving our programs... (it) gets Bethel's name out there just in general, for any high school student as well." The competitive cheer team's next competition will be Saturday, Feb. 24, at the NAIA Northeast Regional Qualifier in Adrian, Michigan. (Photo courtesy of Bethel Athletics)
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