A lot has changed since Judy James stood on the sidelines decades ago as a high school cheerleader waving pompoms and reciting upbeat chants to urge on the local team and crowd.
Today, cheerleading is the sport.
Competitions like the Sea to Sky International Cheerleading and Dance Championship, which takes place next week at the Vancouver Convention Centre, draw thousands of cheerleaders from Canada and the United States to perform well-choreographed, two-and-a-half minute routines, replete with crowd-pleasing stunts and tumbling that are scored by a panel of judges.
Later in her life, James became involved again with cheerleading after one of her daughters became a high school cheerleader and she was asked to help out. That led to her opening Valley Stars Cheer Athletics about 12 years ago.
Valley Stars has now 10 teams and more than 100 athletes enrolled, from ages two to 27. Many of James’s athletes will be competing at the Sea to Sky.
“I really enjoy working with the kids,” said James, who is both owner and coach at Valley Stars. “Cheerleading is a team sport.”
Her club has competitive and non-competitive teams, as well as a special needs team.
Through the sport, James and her coaches focus on teaching positive life skills, developing confidence and self-esteem, good sportsmanship and building friendships.
“[It’s] a great way to bond,” she said. “There’s no “I” in team.”
Part of her club’s mission statement reads: we believe in fairness, friendships and most of all sportsmanship.
Plus, cheerleading is a good workout.
One of Valley’s teams named Titanium – a Sr. Level 4 team made up of athletes ages 11 to 17 – will be competing at the Summit All-Star Cheerleading Championship in Orlando, which starts May 1. The team qualified by earning a “bid” at last year’s Sea to Sky.
Team Titanium has been training for the summit all year and are now ramping up their preparation, with extra practices.
Two of the team members — Sydney Bamara and Lexi Glenn — have also earned scholarships to go to a one-week training camp in Hawaii. A third member, Kyra Degregorio, also earned a spot, but was unable to attend because of prior commitments, said James.
James is extremely proud of the Titanium squad’s hard work and dedication.
“This team has had injuries and illnesses and many setbacks but each week they prove to themselves that they are capable of doing whatever they work hard for, and that is where confidence, team work and sportsmanship take place here at Valley Stars,” said James.
Check back with Abbynews.com to see how the Stars did at the Sea to Sky and Summit competitions.