Cheering for the home team
Times Staff Writer
Football isn’t just a game in which spectators watch players run into each other at full speed for amusement. It is also an opportunity for other athletes to perform and do what they love to do.
Every once in awhile during a commercial break or when a player runs into another, you may see the camera glance toward a team’s cheerleaders — who practice day and night to perfect their routine for the crowd.
Coach Misty DeFoe first started coaching the Gunnison High School (GHS) squad as an assistant back in 2014. At first, she was hesitant to jump in, but with a little push from her daughter, she decided to coach. DeFoe started coming practices to help out where needed.
Not only was it DeFoe’s first year on the Spirit Squad staff. It also was the first year Gunnison had a Spirit Squad since the early 2000s. The next year, during the 2015-16 season, DeFoe was hired as head coach.
This year, the GHS Spirit Squad consists of seven girls, two of whom are DeFoe’s daughters — Macey and Meah Billinger. While they may not perform at competitions of their own, it doesn’t stop the Spirit Squad from having fun — or rallying spectators in support of the home team.
“We love getting the crowd excited,” said captain Macey Billinger.
Since they’re such a small team, they don’t get the opportunity to compete with other high schools at competitions.
“We may not be a big enough program now to compete in competitions, but we look forward to the day in which we can,” said DeFoe.
The Cowboys practice three days a week at the Gunnison Community Center. DeFoe also has her team volunteering at the center, where they teach a class of younger girls who will perform at the high school and Western State Colorado University football games this season.
“I believe it is a great experience for these girls to have,” said DeFoe. “Maybe even something that they could use on a college application.”
During the season, the GHS Spirit Squad gets the opportunity to go on one big trip as a team. In the past, the squad has performed at a Denver Nuggets game and at a University of Colorado Buffaloes football game.
DeFoe would like to continue this tradition in the future as it is a “great bonding experience for them,” she said of squad members. Each cheerleader is responsible for organizing their own fundraiser so they can go on the trip.
While GHS does consider the Spirit Squad an athletic program, requiring each player to pay a $125 athletic fee each year, they don’t provide uniforms for the cheerleaders. Each girl is responsible for either purchasing or fundraising for the $200 cost of the uniform.
This year the Spirit Squad has been raising money so they can pay each girl’s athletic fees.
Be on the look out for the Spirit Squad at every GHS home football game, including tomorrow night’s Homecoming matchup against Cedaredge.
(Brandon Warr can be reached at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)