Stunting with Style

The normal assumption of cheerleaders is generally pom-poms, ponytails and pyramids; however yell leaders are quite the opposite.

At the base of every pyramid with multiple flyers, steadily clutching a cheerleader’s white laced-up shoe, a yell leader can be found. While there may be a controversy on whether or not cheer is a competitive sport, yell leaders are the support in a stunt; the guiding hand that holds that cheerleader soaring high in the air.

According to, yell leading originally began at a football game at Texas A&M University, which at the time was an all-male military school. The ladies that some of the students invited from other schools were bored and, overtime, threatened to leave. Some freshmen boys changed into white janitors’ overalls and led the crowd in cheers in hopes to entertain them. Ever since that night in 1907, yell leading has grown, spreading to high schools across the country.

“I had Thompson for Spanish class and she’d always show us videos of her son, , doing stunts and going to state ,” junior Daniel Messick said “I was like, I wanna do that, so I joined .”

The yell leaders practice with their partners every day after school and work on routines with different partner stunts.

“My favorite would be a toss where you the girl by her waist and toss her up in the air and you can go up to a hand extension if you want to,” junior Derek Smith said.

Many yell leaders spend time outside of school at other gyms to practice routines. Junior John Styers practices at KC cheer every friday, sophomore Ethan Nelson practices at least two hours on the weekends, and junior Derek Smith works in the stage gym after practice at school.

“I just gotta get better and improve everyday.” Nelson said. “I just joined and last year I played football and I honestly like this better than football.”

Whether it’s a “chair” where the cheerleader sits in a yell leader’s hand in the air, a “hands” where the yell leader holds the cheerleader’s feet in their hands, or an “extension” where they extend the cheerleader from “hands” to one hand in the air; the squad sometimes has to go over a partner stunt two or three times before they have it down. It can be even harder if you’ve never done anything like it before and it could get tricky.

“Stunting and the tumbling, thats definitely athletic whether or not its a sport.” Messick said. “Once you get to the high level like if you do a competitive cheer or once you get to college, the amount of work you have to put into it, its rigorous.”

While some consider cheer to be extracurricular, the yell leaders believe it to be an uncredited sport. Thompson also shares this belief.

“I don’t need anybody to tell me it’s a sport to validate it, that doesn’t really do much for me,” Thompson said. “I’m confident in myself as far as what they do. A lot of the male coaches have been very favorable about amazing the athletic skills that demonstrate and I’m okay with it either way.”

Having a stunt partner who believes in the same sport as their teammate, and having a person to look up to helps cultivate the team atmosphere, so they can work together.

“My favorite thing is how the team is more like a family than an actual team,” Smith said. “They all like to have fun and get a lot of work done. Just the atmosphere of it and the family that I have there makes me want to come to practice every day.”