The last time Jayla Glover put on a Wellesley High School cheerleader uniform as a freshman, nobody took her seriously.
Now, entering her senior year, she’s looking to give the squad a fresh start with new teammates, new uniforms and a new coach and start building a better reputation for Wellesley cheerleading than it has had in the past.
“Basically, when I first got to the high school there was a team—about six girls—and it was very obvious to the whole school that they didn’t really take it seriously,” Glover told the Townsman this week. “Their reputation made it so the school sort of took the team as a joke.”
Now Glover and Odessa White, her mom and the squad’s new coach, are making a serious effort to bring the team back as a club for the 2015-16 school year.
“I spent the whole spring just talking to girls seeing if people would be interested,” Glover said, adding that she’s posted on Facebook in an effort to solicit feedback from interested students. “If we’re going to make a team I want to satisfy everybody and make everybody happy.”
Glover has launched a fundraising campaign to help pay for new uniforms that she said will replace the ill-fitting holdovers from the last team and help them create an identity that’s distinct from the one that she said did not leave a good impression of what it should mean to be a WHS cheerleader.
“There are uniforms that could literally fit two of me in there. Also I’m very big on us being a new team,” Glover said, “so I don’t really want to wear their uniforms.”
Another challenge, according to Glover, is encouraging students—girls or boys—to overcome a perceived stigma that she said was left behind by the cheer program that’s been defunct since her freshman year.
“Honestly, it’s really sad to say, but a lot of people at our high school care about what other people think,” she said. “I think people just don’t want to look bad out there. I’m promising people we’re going to look good out there.”
Part of looking good, she said, will mean being able to do a variety of stunts and cheers. That, she said, is where her mom and coach will come in.
“Right now, at this point, we just want to get ourselves out there so the community can know that we’re back and definitely encourage other students to join or come to the games and respect the cheerleading team,” White, Glover’s mom, told the Townsman the day before tryouts, “because I feel like it’s lost its respect as a sport.”
White, who has coached cheerleading for Boston’s Pop Warner football organization in the past, moved to Wellesley with her family in 2007 but found there wasn’t a strong cheerleading culture in Wellesley.
“We were disappointed because Jayla enjoyed cheerleading and there was no Pop Warner format here,” White said. “There is American Youth Football but even [AYF] doesn’t have cheerleaders.”
Instead, the cheerleading team’s coach said, Wellesley’s girls have competitive team sports as their lone athletic outlet. So far, though, about 20 girls have expressed interest in the cheer squad, which won’t cut anyone who wants to participate.
“We’re trying to build it and make it so girls are proud to be cheerleaders again,” she said. “I’ll definitely be present at every practice and every game, as well as I’ll be having meetings on my own with other high school cheer coaches because I think it’s good to figure out what other teams are doing and have a camaraderie.”
Cheerleading, unlike traditional team sports, is less about competing with other schools and more about sharing ideas, according to White. The response from others in town who’ve heard of the fledgling team have been supportive, and have expressed an interest in helping out, according to both White and Glover.
The coach added that she expects the squad to be ambassadors for the whole school.
“We definitely want to be role models for the student community,” White said. “That’s why I want the girls to know that they’re not just cheerleaders for the football team, they’re cheerleaders for the whole school community.”