Kingsway cheerleading has been a longtime staple of Friday night football games. Now for the first time in years, the squad has become co-ed.
In early September three boys joined the Kingsway cheer team. Their names are Mathias Alexander, Benjamin Dryden, and Dylan McCarthy. Aside from being men in a female-dominated sport, their stories are unique in that they are all upperclassmen who earned varsity spots without ever trying out.
“Every year of my high school career, the team has been asking me to cheer,” said Alexander, a senior. “I always brushed it off but at senior beach day we were having fun flipping around, so when they asked the final time, I gave in and said yes,” he continued.
Though this is Alexander’s first year as a Dragon cheerleader, he has many years of experience in tumbling along with other sports that rely heavily on endurance and flexibility. Outside of cheerleading, he is a reigning state champion in track and field and a cross country team manager.
Unlike Alexander, Dylan McCarthy had entirely different motives for joining the team.
“A lot of guys are scared to get out there and do things that other people say are not manly, when in fact, cheerleading takes much more strength, practice, and dedication than anyone can believe,” said McCarthy. He chose to try cheer for his senior year to tear down the stigma and toxic masculinity standards surrounding the sport.
Unfortunately, this has proved to be no easy task. McCarthy reported cases of objectifying comments and rude looks during the home opener on Friday, Sept. 9. Even though most of his classmates were supportive, he explained that sometimes it is the few mean people who can turn a good memory sour.
Junior captain, Makayla White, claimed that this behavior from the student section is what prevents guys from joining high school cheer in the first place.
As a cheerleader for almost a decade, Makayla White has noticed huge differences between the number of boys who participate on her competition cheer team (All-star) compared to high school cheer.
“I feel like some boys may not want the whole school to know that they cheer, but it’s a whole different world at all-star because nobody knows about it unless they do it too,” said White.
On the Kingsway squad, the three boys are responsible for helping with stunts. They provide a strong base for flyers and are able to toss the female cheerleaders higher than the all-female team could for basket stunts.
Unlike the girls, the male-cheerleaders spoke with their coaches about not participating in the dance routines with the rest of the team. Their coach was accepting of the things they were not comfortable with and created a spot for them to just do stunts and tumbling.
In terms of team culture, the boys are also making a space for themselves. “When I think of boys being on the cheer team, I think that they would be outcasts,” said White. “But the boys love hanging out with us during and outside of practice,” she continued.
The boys’ easy integration into team affairs shows the immense potential for co-ed cheerleading squads in Kingsway’s future. The three additions to this year’s team and their female teammates agree that they would love to come to Kingsway football games long after they graduate and see more boys cheering from the sidelines.
“Don’t live with any regrets. If you want to do it, then do it,” says Alexander to any prospective male cheerleaders. It is with this mantra that they hope to expand the place for boys on the Kingsway cheer squad for years to come.
By Audrey Pachuta