Cheerleading takes DeLoach to the next level

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 17, 1998

Michael Kiral / L’Observateur / July 17, 1998

LAPLACE – Cheerleaders have been a part of football for almost as long as the game as been around, exhorting their fans to cheer their team to victory.

But if you think cheerleading is just yelling and jumping, nothing could be further from the truth. Cheerleaders, like any other athlete, must gothrough strenuous practices and face the risk of injury with every stunt they perform, all the while dreaming of performing at the next level.

LaPlace native Jason DeLoach will get to live that dream this year, recently making the cheerleading squad at Southeastern Louisiana University.

DeLoach did not grow up dreaming of being a cheerleader, however.

Gymnastics was his sport, having watched the sport on television since he was 3-years-old. When he was in the eighth grade, a boy in his physicaleducation class begin doing flips and other things that DeLoach wanted to do. DeLoach went home and did a backflip in his backyard, convincing hisparents to put him in a gymnastics class.

DeLoach took gymnastics at TOPS Gymnastics in LaPlace for two years before attending East St. John High School where he made the gymnasticssquad. During his sophomore year, DeLoach competed at the state meet,placing second on the vault and floor for Level 6.

Before going to East St. John, DeLoach attended a church function at LSUwhere he met one of the university’s cheerleaders. The cheerleader toldDeLoach about cheerleading and how it could help him get a college scholarship. DeLoach tried out for cheerleading at East St. John and madethe squad.

DeLoach said being a cheerleader takes a lot of flexibility and a lot of practice time.

“You have to make up your mind that you are going to do it or you are going to be afraid all the time,” DeLoach said.

DeLoach said the squad at East St. John practiced every day after schoolfor one hour and for 2 1/2 hours on Saturdays when it was preparing for competitions.

That worked paid off when East St. John placed second among 11 teams atthe Southwestern Cheerleading Association’s national competition during DeLoach’s junior year. During the competition, the squad had to do a 2 to 21/2 minute routine consisting of cheers, dances and stunts.

And while teams are always trying to improve on their routines, safety is the major priority. DeLoach said that falls can occur during stunting andthat he has seen a cheerleader break her ankle when she landed on it wrong. DeLoach himself has also had his ankle broken when he landed on itwrong.

While at East St. John, DeLoach and the squad led cheers for the Wildcatfootball team, both through lean years and through playoff seasons the last two years. DeLoach said that you have to keep up your spirits nomatter how the team is doing on the field because you are the spirit leader but that it is harder to do when the team is losing than when it is successful.

For those people who say cheerleading itself is not a sport, DeLoach tells them while a football player might be able to run and tackle, try have him hold up a girl with one hand.

“I have never practiced harder in my life for anything,” DeLoach said. “Ascompetitive as it is now, it is definitely a sport.”Helping the squad with its routines was sponsor Teckla Slayton. Slaytonput together the trips to camp and helped put together the routines, although the entire group had input into them.

DeLoach is currently serving on the staff of the Southwestern Cheerleading Association camp, teaching high school students. DeLoachhad been going to the camp with the East St. John squad since he was afreshman.

At SLU, DeLoach said he wants to major in Theater and minor in Kinesiology, maybe someday having his own squad. He said thatcheerleading in college is more difficult because at that level, you stunt with three people while in high school, there is only one person to stunt.

Developing that trust during stunts is what DeLoach said was the hardest part about gymnastics.

“You have to make sure you can trust them when you are in the air,” DeLoach said. “Believing that you are able to do what you are supposed tobe doing.”

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