Pop Warner Cheer shines in Georgetown

 

The echoing cheers and spirited dance routines that abounded in the parks around Georgetown last year will once again spring up as the Georgetown Pop Warner Cheer and Dance teams take to the fields for their fourth season. Bubbly five-year-olds, many just beginning to learn cheer basics and teamwork, take their place alongside their older counterparts in Pop Warner Cheer, a rapidly growing sport.

Pop Warner—a nonprofit organization recognized for its youth football league—offers a cheerleading and dance program that has thousands of girls and boys ages five to fifteen years old participating in recreational and competitive teams nationwide. It attracts young athletes from all background and skill levels, including children with special needs.

“Our philosophy is that anyone can cheer,” says Terrie Resler, the GTPW’s Cheer director.

Beginning this August, her athletes have just three months to form cohesive age-based teams whose movements unite dance with military precision. Braving the Texas trifecta—heat, mosquitoes, and fire ants—they’ll gather on parched fields of grass to spend hours each week learning the routines. Many of the kids are new to Pop Warner and cheerleading, but they participate with the experienced athletes.

“In cheer and dance, no one sits on the sidelines; every child has an important role to play, and every child is given that chance to shine,” says Terrie.

And shine they do. GTPW Cheer has placed first in Central Texas for two out of three years and won first and second in the Southwest Region in the last two years. The Southwest Region spans seven states and is the springboard to the National Cheer and Dance Championships at Walt Disney World, where GTPW teams placed sixth and fifteenth this past season.

In addition to their competition accolades, GTPW is pioneering the dance side of Pop Warner. Just last season, Georgetown was the first program in central Texas to incorporate boys into their hip-hop team. “We were so proud that Georgetown, Texas, was the first to compete in this category,” Terrie says. They’ve also introduced Pop Warner to “dub step”—a slow-motion, fluid dance style popularized in the Step Up film series.

Outward sparkle isn’t the program’s only goal. Each year GTPW Cheer makes volunteering in the community a priority as well. “I want to instill the spirit of volunteerism in the kids at a very young age,” says Terrie. Beaming smiles and energy radiated from GTPW participants as they proudly cheered on the athletes at last year’s Special Olympics, for example. And during the devastating Austin and Bastrop brush fires of 2011, the teams and their parents were quick to load box trucks with much needed supplies.

GTPW’s amazing success in and out of the spotlight has not been free from rough terrain. Lack of a permanent building for practices is a challenge for a program that thrives on space and floor mats. And GTPW, like many nonprofit youth programs, struggles to find sponsors to support the numerous costs that the teams’ fundraising efforts don’t cover.

On the list of essentials each year are volunteer high school students who serve as junior coaches under the supervision of certified adult coaches. These young men and women qualify for volunteer hours toward their college applications as they utilize their skills in a professional program, assisting with choreography, photography, media relations, and a host of other vital tasks.

“We need these young coaches to inspire our little ones, and they learn how to be responsible in a job-like setting,” Terrie says. The youth benefit, and their contributions also build up a program that—at its heart—builds up others.

By Tiffany R. White

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