Raiders eying Norfolk Fair cheerleading title
Kassidy Deming of the Delhi Raiders cheerleading squad leads the team in a dance number during a practice at school. The Raiders are preparing for the upcoming Young Canada Day cheerleading competition at the Norfolk County Fair in October. (EDDIE CHAU Delhi News-Record)
“Five, six, seven, eight.”
Every number counts for the Delhi Raiders cheerleading squad. With every count of a number the squad are in sync, jumping, waving and smiling in coordination.
The intense practice headed by coach Lauren Dely has the girls sweating up a storm in the warm and humid Delhi District Secondary School gymnasium. After one routine is finished, the girls rush to the wall where their water bottles are located.
After a brief moment to rehydrate, the girls are back to perfecting their routine. Never missing a step.
Taking home first runner up in last year's Young Canada Day competition, this year the Raiders aren't settling for second best anymore. The team is out to prove that the number one spot belongs to them.
“We won in 2011,” Dely said. “Simcoe won it last year. We're going to win it again (this year).”
Since July, the Raiders have been dedicated to their craft. Fine tuning their every move in anticipation for their next competition.
Up first is the Young Canada Day competition which takes place in October during the Norfolk County Fair. Currently the Raiders practice twice a week — Tuesday and Thursday nights at DDSS.
So much time is devoted to the craft. Training doesn't even include time devoted to fundraising efforts - cheerleading isn't a cheap sport.
Uniforms, shoes and even trips to competitions prove to be costly so fundraising is a major option to make things happen.
Dely — a former Raiders cheerleader herself — said she will throw in an extra practice a week when a competition draws near.
"From when the team is formed to the date of our first competition, usually fair, we train each cheerleader in a team setting," Dely said. "Every practice is started with a simple warm up including cardio, strength, and flexibility. The ladies sometimes get tired of the routine so we try to switch it up for example, we will blast music and have our own zumba work out or the girls pick one area of the body they want to improve on.
"We also find the best cardio, strength and flexibility training comes from the cheerleading routine itself. Each member is working on what suits their position... our dances and jumps give us our cardio. Throughout the year we help each girl to improve on their fitness."
The Raiders are excited about entering the competition at the Norfolk County Fair. Dely said the whole school watches the competition and experiences the fair from a cheerleader's point of view.
"To experience from (our) point of view is like no other, there are no words to describe it," she said.
The Raiders also participate in the Power Cheerleading Athletics Christmas Cheer, the Ontario Cheerleading Federation provincial and national events as well as the Wonderland Cheerleading Competition.
"These competitions are much larger, as almost 200-300 teams compete," Dely said. "The difficulty level gets higher and the teams we compete against turn into teams who practice everyday. Although, we usually place fourth or fifth the girls never give up and just wait until next year to try it again."
What makes a well rounded cheerleader?
Dely said she looks for personal qualities such as outgoingness, passion, dedication, commitment and leadership in good cheerleaders.
"These girls need a basic set of skills coming into cheerleading," Dely said. "Us, as coaches take on the responsibility to take those basic skills and turn them into a winning team, just as its been said, practice makes perfect."
While it's important to train for the next competition the squads also play vital roles at school and in the community. While not competing, the Raiders support their football team at every home game, encouraging the crowd to cheer and participate with enthusiasm.
"Every touchdown Delhi scores the girls burst into our unique school song and throw some girls up in the air," Dely said. "At this year's Friday Night Lights game the cheerleaders will be showing the routine at half time and stunting throughout the night, we really pump up the crowd. Once the game is over, win or lose, the girls cheer very proud as the Delhi football team runs into their locker room. It really is quite exciting."
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