CHS welcomes coed cheer team for the first time in school history

Teammates Taylor Gallagher, junior (left), and Abby Burdette, sophomore (right), assist David Light, senior (middle), in a lift. The team enjoys having diversity despite doubts or uncertainties about this season.

Apurva Manas

TEAMWORK: Teammates Taylor Gallagher, junior (left), and Abby Burdette, sophomore (right), assist David Light, senior (middle), in a lift. The team enjoys having diversity despite doubts or uncertainties about this season.

Ben Traylor and Kelly Truax

In the past, the sidelines of sporting events around the country, have been filled with teams of elite, exclusively female athletes have been an integral part of high school sports. As a result, cheerleading is one of the longest traditions showcased beside amateur and professional games. The energy provided by these squads not only energizes the fans, but also encourages the competitors.

However, in recent years, a growing number of schools have challenged the standard of maintaining an all-girls program, opening up new avenues for the sport to grow and evolve. This school is no exception and, for the first time, CHS has included a male on the cheerleading squad.

Even though he’s new to the team, cheerleader and senior David Light has been exposed to cheerleading skills since he was young.

“I’ve been doing gymnastics since I was a little kid, probably (since I was) about 4 years old,” Light said. “I excelled at the floor, but I wasn’t really good at any of the other events, so that’s why I’ve focused more on tumbling and other gymnastics and that’s how I got to cheering.”

Cheerleading Head Coach Lisa Knipp said Light has opened up opportunities for the team.

“I think that his strength is an amazing asset. Men always bring more strength to the team. So in building skills, (he’s) absolutely, hands-down an asset in strength and stability with all stunts. The other element that he brings is that he is really strong in his tumbling skills. We can showcase David’s skills, showcase those wonderful tumbling elements that not all girls have.”

In college, men starting in gymnastics and moving on to support cheer programs is not unheard of. In fact, many college programs rely on men joining the team to execute coed formations.

“I thought about college, and people said I should cheer in college because there are a lot of male cheerleaders in college,” Light said. “My sister is on the team too, and I figured why not just try it on the high school team.”

According to Knipp, CHS recently has become one of a select few schools in the greater Indianapolis area to join a coed conference.

“Hamilton Southeastern and Fishers are always dominantly strong,” Knipp said. “Last year Noblesville and Westfield were dominantly strong, and those are all-girls teams, none of them have men.”

Because of this change in lineup for CHS cheer, competing in the 6A division is no longer an option for the program, as it had been in years past.

“The only team that I know for sure that is coed is New Palestine,” Knipp said. “It’s kind of a new thing with high school cheerleading. You always see gentlemen at the college level, which you don’t see as many in high school. So we’re kind of breaking the ice and getting into a new ball game.”

Cheerleader and junior Taylor Gallagher said, “I hope that David does lead the pathway for more guys to see: if David can do it, (they) can do it. Having a guy on the team is such a unique thing to have. It’s a different kind of vibe having all girls because it breaks a barrier and is a unique way to bond with a guy.”

So far, the new program has only competed in one event since Light joined the team. However, team chemistry this season will likely be dependent on the ability for the team to embrace changes and learn from local coed competition.

“(Light is) a very upbeat person. Whenever we’re all having not a good practice, he’ll be the one to remind us that our main goal here is to win State and we’re here to win,” Gallagher said. “He keeps a positive outlook on all of us when we start to get negative. He is learning cheerleading at the same time we’re all growing to do it with him, so as he learns, we learn to deal with having a guy on the team. It’s a good change.”