the cheerleading team joins the varsity football team, its coaching staff and their spectators in taking a knee after their loss to Brookstone School Oct. 4. Photograph by Jessica L. Marsala.
the cheerleading team joins the varsity football team, its coaching staff and their spectators in taking a knee after their loss to Brookstone School Oct. 4. Photograph by Jessica L. Marsala.

Columbus cheerleaders cheer with civility and Christian charity

Originally Appeared in : 9924-11/21/19

COLUMBUS--When rival sports teams face off, it is not uncommon to hear barbs and taunts thrown by the crowds on opposing sides as players on the field or court attempt to score.


But at St. Anne-Pacelli School, the athletes know that good sportsmanship will speak louder than any of the insults that could be thrown their way.


Members of the St. Anne-Pacelli School Cheerleading Team perform a stunt Oct. 4 during the pep rally that preceded the night’s home rivalry game against the Brookstone private school in Columbus. Photograph by Jessica L. Marsala.

Leading the way in positivity at the Columbus school’s football and basketball games are the varsity and junior varsity cheerleaders, who are coached by alumnae Jenna Poole and Katie Mann.


“One of our biggest things for cheerleading is to develop leaders, and I mean it's basically in our name: cheer-leader,” Head Coach Poole said. Grace Buice, a junior on the team, similarly acknowledged that she wanted to become a cheerleader in middle school because she looked up to them. “So we always remind the girls that whether you're in the halls, or on the field, or out and about your day, or in social media, you're always representing St. Anne-Pacelli. So that goes a very long way, especially when they're in their uniform. So we always want to represent ourselves, our school, and Christ in each other.”


For example, during the high school varsity football team’s Oct. 4 game against Brookstone, one of their biggest rivals, the cheerleaders set a positive example by sticking to their rehearsed cheers even when it seemed that the home team would never regain its footing and fans’ civility dropped with their spirits.


The cheerleaders attempted to pump the crowd up with cheers like Pump It Up and also directed cheers at the players to encourage them.


"When we’re on the field and afterwards, we're always going to be appropriate, and we're always going to be the bigger person when it comes to saying rude things to each other and things like that, because it's happened previously,” says sophomore cheerleader Alyssa Mooney. “But we always have good sportsmanship here. It's never dirty. It's never playing not fair. It's always good sportsmanship. And we always have respect for the opposing team. So that plays a really big role into how our school is different from others.”


The October rivalry game–which ended in a 36-7 loss for the Vikings—did not discourage the football players or their cheering squad. As after every game, win or lose, the athletes and their fans took a knee on the field to offer up the game to God, who senior Irina Avilia notes, has strengthened them as not only teammates and friends but also as a family. She says that having a common faith makes it easier to be athletes because of how it bonds them.

Members of the St. Anne-Pacelli School Cheerleading Team pose for a photo. Photograph courtesy of Jenna Poole.


“So when our team loses, if it’s football or any other sport, we always are there for each other as a school,” Mooney likewise acknowledged, “but we're never going to trash one of our own teams because we are here to lift each other up.”


Noting the influence of the football team’s Head Coach Dwight Jones, she added, “We go into the huddles after every game. And even if we win or even if we lose, he's like, get back Monday in here and we're going to work, and we're gonna get better because all we can do from now is get better, and all we can do is go up,” Mooney said. “So I think that's really cool because when we lose, it's not like we’re super upset about it. We are upset, but we know that we're gonna get back and get better and work.”


According to Father Emanuel “Manny” Vasconcelos, OFM Conv., parochial vicar at St. Anne Church, there are many lessons the students are taught by participating in team sports such as how to handle themselves in victory and defeat or how faith doesn’t have to be compartmentalized to church but is as present on the field as it is off.


However, he believes that the most important thing sports—as well as other team-oriented extracurricular activities—teach students is how to interact with others.


“You learn how to interact with other people and learning your part, the role that you play and seeing when you can lift someone up if they feel kind of low or being able to just be aware of the others around you,” Father Vasconcelos, a track athlete in school himself as well as a member of drama and choir clubs, said, making sure to note the importance of a well-rounded education that caters to not only the body and mind but also the soul. When their schedule permits, Father Vasconcelos and the other friars of St. Anne Church, which operates the school, do their best to be a visible presence at many of the school’s athletic competitions like the Oct. 4 football game. “I think that that's part of what team sports teach you—besides improving yourself physically and doing your best, which is also a great way to encourage physical health and wellness.”

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