Today’s interview is with Rachael Eveland. She is the Head Coach of the Broncos cheer squad of the Berwick Youth Football League in Berwick, PA.
Her cheer squad consists of girls between the ages of 7-9. Their season goes 12 weeks with a competition to end the season.
1. How long have you been the coach of the Broncos cheer?
This is my fourth season with the BYFL Broncos. I also coached a local middle school squad for two years as well.
2. What are some of the fundamental skills that you teach your squad?
Since my squad is in the youngest division we offer, girls that are on my team are always brand new to cheerleading if they weren’t on my squad the previous year. So with that, we really start at square one. Motions are a big deal for the first two or three weeks of practices. We play A LOT of simon says with motions to get the girls to really practice remembering them. After they have motions down, we work up from there: sidelines, cheers, and eventually stunting. As the season progresses we add more difficult material to the previously learned material. I focus on the girls mastering the basics so when they move onto to a different squad they have the basics down and can master whatever their new coach has for them.
3. What is a typical game day like and what is the most exciting part for your squad?
When we first arrive at the field, we stretch and run through the cheers for the day. Right before the game starts, the football teams are announced onto the field. When the Broncos are called, my cheerleaders hold up a banner that we have painted the previous week. The football players then run through the banner, sometimes tearing it to pieces, sometimes getting knocked over instead. After that, we will meet up with the other cheer squad and exchange hello/thank you cheers. After this we will start the typical sidelines and cheers rotation throughout the rest of the game. During half time, my girls will go out to the 50 yard line and do a cheer for the football parents while the boys talk about the first half.
The girls’ favorite part of the game is definitely “throwing beads”. Berwick is a HUGE football town, and everyone knows that in Berwick, the Varsity and JV cheerleaders throw footballs during each home game. These are small plastic footballs that are thrown after the crowd is lead in a cheer that spells out BERWICK. This is a Berwick tradition, and no game at Crispin Field is complete without it. Instead of throwing footballs, my cheerleaders throw blue, orange, and silver beads after leading the crowd in a cheer where they spell out BRONCOS.
4. Tell us more about the Berwick Youth Football League, when the girls get older do they move up to other squads?
Berwick Youth Football League is divided into three divisions: Pony, B, and A. These divisions are all divided up by age. Girls are placed into the correct division regardless of experience. The BYFL is all about teaching basics and getting kids started in football and cheerleading. There are no try-outs and no turn-aways. Everyone is welcome to play.
5. At the end of the season you have a competition, tell us more about that and also how you prepare for it.
After the regular football season, plays-offs, and Superbowls have been played, all of the cheerleading squads head up to Misericordia University. Each year the Misericordia cheerleaders host the Cougar Cheer & Dance Challenge. We participate in the Recreational Cheer division. We compete with a Hello Cheer, Sideline, Hometown Cheer, and Dance. Each component is judged individually and places/trophies are awarded for each component. Two years ago, my girls took two 1st places and two 5th places. Last year, we took home 2nd in all four categories.
Since there are other teams outside the BYFL we go up against, the BYFL also awards the winning-est BYFL team after we return home. There is a point system awarded for trophies brought home, team with the most points, wins amongst the BYFL teams. This is considered the cheerleaders’ “Superbowl”. For winning the superbowl, the football players receive championships rings. For winning competition, the cheerleaders receive charm bracelets.
6. What is the most rewarding part of your job as coach with your squad?
There have been so many rewarding moments in my coaching career. I love when my previous cheerleaders come up to me in their new uniforms after they’ve moved up to tell me about all the new skills they have been learning. I have loved going to competition with my girls and seeing their smiles as they perform on the mat and give their very best for the judges (and then the smiles of taking home four trophies). I love moments when a skill or moment clicks for the girls: they understand how the game of football is played, they’ve mastered a dance, or they threw their beads directly to a fan. I love to see my cheerleaders succeed!!!
7. Tell us more about your background and how you got started coaching the Broncos cheer.
I cheered for three years in high school for Varsity Football, Wrestling, and Basketball. I attended East Stroudsburg University for my freshman year of college. There I cheered as one of seven freshmen on the squad. After my freshman year, I transferred to Bloomsburg University. Since I had transferred so late, try-outs for the BU squad had already passed. One of my younger sisters was involved with the BYFL at the time and her team needed a coach. I thought at the time I would just coach for a year and then try-out for the BU squad. I fell in love with coaching and never ended up trying out. During my second and third year of coaching the Broncos, I also coached the Danville Middle School squad. This was a very different experience than my 7 & 8 year old Broncos. I loved it, but was unable to continue coaching both this year. I am also currently in the midst of starting a competition team at the Berwick YMCA.
8. What would you tell parents that have a girl or boy that wants to try cheerleading but hasn’t yet?
TRY IT! I tried everything growing up: soccer, floor hockey, basketball, softball, swimming, and track and field. Nothing fit me as well as cheerleading. It took me until my sophomore year of high school to find a sport that truly fit me. Find what your child enjoys!
And a special shout out to the boys who want to cheer – DO IT! There is one boy in the entire BYFL that cheers. He is not on my squad, but I am so proud of him and his family, and the BYFL, for allowing him to cheer! Do whatever makes you happy! And if a boy wants to cheer, LET HIM! I think guy cheerleaders are seriously the best! In the BYFL we have a handful of girls that play football. Again, I think this is awesome! Do what you love and what makes you happy! That’s what it’s all about!
(Photos were provided for us to use and gave us full permission to post them)