By DEVONTE GARDNER
For Starkville Daily News
Young Champions of America, a local youth cheerleading group, will compete in a state level cheerleading competition June 2 in Nashville, Tenn. after placing first in a regional match.
Stormi Steele, YCA head coach, said she tries to keep her squad motivated and positive so its members will do well in their competitions.
“I’m proud of all my girls,” she said. “Since I’ve been their coach, I’ve had the most amazing experience with them. I’m so excited for us to go to Nashville and hopefully bring home another win.”
Massey Miley, 14, is the head coach for her 10-to-14 age group. Before each competition, she said she practices her routines and stretches.
“I work my absolute best and hardest each week that we practice to go to competition,” she said.
Miley said her group is prepared for the competition because of its motivation and dedication to hard work.
“I’ve got the girls motivated enough to come every day, be prepared (and to) have good attitudes,” she said.
Because of the potential risk for injury, safety is a major concern for YCA. The girls always place mats before they begin practicing stunts, Steele said.
Presley Howard, 13, a YCA cheerleader, said in one incident a girl tried a stunt before Steele had a chance to place down a mat. The team dropped her on accident, and the girl busted her chin and needed six stitches.
Miley said the cheerleader came back a week later despite her injury and still performed well, which shows how important it is for her team to work through injuries and hardships.
“She did a toe-touch with one hand and that was amazing to me because it was still as high as it could ever be,” she said. “I’m proud of her for that.”
Howard said parents of the children in YCA are a major help. Her mom helps her with posture by coaching her on sharpness and keeping her arms straight.
Deanna Allen, Massey Miley’s parent, said she just wants her daughter to enjoy what she is doing.
“I encourage her to do what she enjoys,” she said. “She loves cheerleading; she’s been doing it for a while. As long as it will keep her grades up and keep her out of trouble, that’s all that I can ask for.”
Allen said YCA cheerleaders work hard and deserve the success they have. They practice until late hours and even though they are tired, they still compete. No matter how high the team places, members remain dedicated to doing a good job.
“Sometimes it’s a let down,” she said. “We don’t always place, but you can tell that they’ve always done their best at it.”
Allen said she will love her daughter regardless of whether she wins or not.
“As long as she’s done her best and participated with the whole team and made herself one of them and not necessarily the captain it makes me happy,” she said.
Steele said YCA not only competes in state competitions, but membership also builds the character of the girls involved with the program by teaching them teamwork and helping them to develop a strong work ethic.
Miley said YCA has helped her make friends and build strong social skills.
The cost for each YCA cheerleading session is $7. Cheer uniforms, including socks and pom-poms, average around $100. YCA often uses special designs and themes like face paint and glitter for its outfits. Parents pitch in $20 for extra accessories, Steele said.
Allen said the expenses of the group can add up when including out-of-state trips, hotel rooms, food and outfits, so the group accepts donations.
Miley said cheerleading is a major part of her life and has been so since she was seven years old.
“I love cheerleading,” she said. “I have no clue what I would do without it.”