FPC and Matanzas cheerleaders keep positive on and off the field as role models in the city.
Niya Preeper has been cheerleading since she was in fifth grade. The uniforms, the smiles, the moves — they drew her in.
“There was just something appealing about it,” she said. “I just really wanted to be on a team.”
Preeper is now a senior at Flagler Palm Coast High School, where she stars on the Bulldogs’ cheer squad. She remembers how it felt the first time she got to cheer on the Bulldogs’ football team.
It was her freshman year, and she was rearing with excitement.
Then it started to pour, and the Bulldogs started to lose.
Yet, she kept smiling.
Through the good and bad, the smooth and difficult, high school cheerleaders are persistent in their positivity. It’s a hallmark of their sport.
In competition, unyielding smiles and a bubbly attitudes can mask mistakes during a routine. On the sideline, they serve as role models — for the team, for the fans, for the school and for the community.
Because you never know who’s watching.
“There’s always little kids looking up to you,” Matanzas cheer captain Madison Asbill said. “I know when I was younger I always looked up to the cheerleaders because I wanted to be one. You have to stay positive because you set the tone for the crowd.”
What separates a good cheerleader from a bad cheerleader? The same qualities that separate any other athlete: dedication, perseverance, attitude, being a team player.
“You have to know that it’s not how many times you fall down, but how many times you get back up,” said FPC’s second-year head coach Wendy Wright, who graduated from the school in 2000.
She added: “You know that you’re a positive role model at all times. Whether we’re winning or losing, you have to remember to keep a positive attitude.”
The smiles extend far past the mat or the sideline. Most importantly, they extend into the community. Whether it’s helping neighbors clean up after a storm, hosting cheer clinics or bake sales, or volunteering to clean up the Intracoastal Waterway, the goal is to be role models.
“They’re leaders,” Matanzas’ second-year head coach Melanie Wood said. “This is about preparing them for what comes after high school.”