Homecoming. A staple in the Norfolk Academy school year. A high school dance, followed by a full week of dress down days. All leading up to Friday’s big festivities: the pep rally that includes dances from the seniors of all the fall varsity teams and a routine for the cheerleaders, and finally the varsity football game.
The team that never rests on this day is the varsity cheerleading team. Though busy – very busy – cheerleaders love the day because they are able to celebrate the school community using team bonds they grow all year long.
What does the day of Homecoming entail for the team?
“We come to school and welcome the little kids, which is really fun,” Isabel Sterzing ’27 said. “Then we go to school, then the pep rally, where we do our halftime dance and cheer, then we hang out and do some team bonding before the game. And then we cheer again.”
Cheerleaders don’t mind being so busy at all. On that October Friday morning, Morgan Alex ’28, a seventh grader new to the team in 2022, was “so excited I woke up on my own, jumping out of my bed to get ready for the day.”
“The pause of going to classes feels so out of place, because as a cheerleader, we kind of know it’s not a school day, it's Homecoming,” captain Jaycee Wilson ’23 said. “It can be stressful but it’s very energetic and fun.”
Of all the events on this day, greeting the Lower School is a team favorite. Helping create “the community that everybody feels when we come together to celebrate” is another aspect cheerleaders enjoy, Wilson said.
“Homecoming is a special celebration for current students, former students, and faculty,” coach Brittany Hulsey said. “It’s a special celebration of continued school tradition and spirit to maintain a strong sense of community.”
The cheerleading team is a family, the athletes agreed. On Homecoming this year, Wilson said she “took on a motherly role. I braided everyone’s hair, so it felt very much like a mother getting the kids ready for church.”
That familial approach is on display throughout the school year. Cheerleaders new this year said they fit in seamlessly. Teammates were immediately nice, welcoming, supportive, and trying to make everyone better. That is an attitude Hulsey works hard to instill.
Describing what makes the NA cheer team so special, Hulsey said it is “the team’s capacity to support one another no matter their age. Its range of ages makes it unique. Our team chemistry is amazing!”
This fall the varsity team included 12 girls, ranging from seventh up to 12th grade. Nyla Gordon ‘23, Shelby Stuart ‘23, and Wilson served as captains.
“Cheerleading is different from other sports because of how bonded we are,” Ayla Eden Kell ’25 said. “Because in cheer you’re relying on people the entire time, so if you’re someone who craves that family, it’s a good option.”
Other team veterans agreed.
“It's a very unique team,” Wilson said. “Because of how small we are and having so many people from different areas of the school, you get to meet and become friends with people you wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Luisa Barros dos Reis noted that cheerleaders are performing in multiple seasons, helping boost many different teams. Fans can watch cheerleaders at football games throughout the fall and basketball games throughout the winter.
“We show support for all the other teams,” Barros dos Reis said.
The cheerleading team also competes in region competitions. Last winter, the group earned second place in the TCIS Championships.
More importantly, cheering can help a student-athlete beyond the sports arena, Hulsey said.
“Athletes can build useful life skills through personal growth, along with developing strength, endurance, and team spirit,” she said. “NA Cheerleading can be challenging mentally and physically, but it can also be quite rewarding. It imparts lessons that can apply to various elements of life.”
– This article was written by Jane Stewart ’23, a Norfolk Academy Communications intern during Maymester 2022 and a member of the cheerleading team