Male cheerleaders challenging stereotypes

Published 11:40 am Tuesday, November 15, 2022

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Carter County Schools are countering stereotypes on their cheerleading squads.
Kayne Fair, a senior at Happy Valley High School, is one of the male cheerleaders throughout the county. “Cheering may not look as rough as some of the sports out there, but it doesn’t make it any less of a sport or ‘girly,’” he said. “It is female dominated, but it is open and accepting of everyone.”
Cheerleading first started in 1898 by a male student at The University of Minnesota, which was in the middle of a losing football season. A young man named Johnny Campbell started doing cheers. Other males joined in and soon, there were male cheer squads. Women didn’t join the sport until World War II, when men were shipped off to war. From that point on, cheerleading has been 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 has cheered competitively.
“I love the team aspect of cheer and that everyone has to work together for anything to work,” he said. “I wish people knew how hard it actually is and what other types there are and maybe they wouldn’t think of cheerleading as girls on the sidelines with pom poms.”
Cheer coach Brooke Tolley has witnessed the surprise of the community in seeing the three young men cheer. “Positive light needs to be brought on male cheerleading,” Tolley said. “I think our program has definitely pioneered a way for male cheerleaders in our region.”
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 cheerleading? “It started out as a joke at first, but I tried out and made it. I like being used as a base and as a spotter for stunts,” he said. “The 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 am pretty strong, I did Strongman for a year. Cheer is highly competitive and athletic. I can squat 655 and deadlift 735. I challenge everyone to go to one cheer competition and tell me that they are not at least at some point highly impressed with the talent and strength of the athletes on these teams.”
Gray said he and the other male cheerleaders are working to move 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 will not 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 got to do it. Ignore the people that disagree.”

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