Things are getting cheerier in the Three Village school district.
Those attending Ward Melville High School’s homecoming may have noticed several little ones with shirts reading “future cheerleader.” After a 10-year absence, youth cheerleaders are returning to the community after the recent merging of the Three Village Wildcats and Port Jefferson Royals youth football program — now called the 3VPJ Hawks.
While Port Jefferson still had its youth cheering program, the Three Village Wildcats cheer team ended a decade ago. In May, the Hawks board voted unanimously to bring back the program with Three Village students after Ellie DePaul, the organization’s new director of cheerleading, made a motion to initiate one. In June, recruiting began for boys and girls between the ages of 4 and 11 who were interested.
“The program, I feel, is really going to benefit the high school at the end of the day because you’re not having cheerleaders coming to seventh-grade tryouts without having any cheer background,” DePaul said.
Trish Gallery’s 11-year-old daughter Julia is one of the Hawks, and the mother said she agreed the team is helpful to a budding cheerleader. She said her daughter and fellow cheerleaders have been learning various skills, how to stay healthy and work together as a team. She said she noticed her daughter is gaining confidence.
“She’s learning skills like the stunts,” Gallery said. “That’s something you really don’t learn anywhere else. Those stunts are giving her a lot of confidence.”
DePaul said Ward Melville High School varsity cheerleaders Sydney Crichton, Bri Wilson and Nicolette DePaul, her daughter, who once were Three Village Wildcats cheerleaders, jumped at the chance to help out with the more than 60 girls ranging from ages 4 to 11 who make up three cheer teams. DePaul said the members have also been working with the Setauket-based Shine Dance Studios to enhance their dance moves and Silver Stars Gymnastics in East Setauket where the team practices tumbling on the mats — a skill she said is vital for cheering in later years.
Wilson, 17, a senior who has been a member of Ward Melville’s varsity cheerleading team for three years, said she’s been cheering for the school district since junior high school and, up until third grade, was part of the Wildcats cheer youth program along with Crichton and Nicolette DePaul. The three were interested in bringing the youth program back because they knew how valuable it was, including gaining them an advantage when trying out for school cheer.
“Getting to share my love with these little girls and to think, ‘Wow, in a few years from now they’re going to be like us is insane.'”
— Bri Wilson
“We knew what we were supposed to do on the sidelines,” Wilson said. “How to get the crowd pumped. Even though we were little, we knew what we were doing.”
She said she loves helping out with the younger children and hopes to be on a college cheer team next year and a coach in the future.
“Getting to share my love with these little girls and to think, ‘Wow, in a few years from now they’re going to be like us is insane,’” she said.
Gallery said her daughter loves working with the Ward Melville students.
“She really looks up to the varsity cheerleaders,” the mother said. “She just feels so special when they share their talent with her, and they take her under their wings.”
Wilson said cheering is important because it creates a positive environment and brings a “game to life.”
“It has such a different feel with the crowd getting involved and being excited,” Wilson said. “We start screaming for the team and so do the parents and anyone in the crowd which definitely helps the team.”
Ellie DePaul said she thinks cheerleaders are an essential part of the school community.
“I really think it’s an intricate part of school spirit — community spirit — having the girls cheer on the athletes just really boosts the spirit of the community,” DePaul said.
For more information about the 3VPJ Hawks, visit www.3vwildcats.com.