Photo courtesy of Julie Canelli
Braintree’s Pop Warner cheerleaders have soared to new heights this year by securing one of 12 spots at the national cheerleading competition in Florida.
Supporters said the group of 19 13- and 14-year-old girls had to place in three different competitions in order to win the privilege, a first ever for the town.
“I truly believed in these girls,” said Head Coach Kelly Fichtner, “They are a hard-working group. And for me, I try to instill that hard work, dedication, and most importantly teamwork will get [you] to where you want to be.”
The girls practice five hours a week, perfecting their 2 1/2-minute routine since starting practice in August.
The hard work eventually paid off, with a first place win at Hockomock Championship in October, first place at the Qualifier Championship in early November, and most recently first place at the Regional Championship.
With that success under their belts, the girls are headed to Disney’s Wide World of Sports, where they will compete against the best in the country.
“They are beyond excited,” said parent Julie Canelli. “They worked so hard to get to where they are today to compete against the best of the best. They are ecstatic.”
Fichtner said the key to success has been focusing on performing, rather than on winning, a different tactic she has as a coach compared with other competitive sports coaches.
“It’s never we’re here to win it. It’s going out there and putting on a performance, a show. That’s what we’re here for,” Fichtner said. “In the end, however,....if they go out and put on a performance, the judges will speak for themselves, and we’ve been lucky every time.”
The exceptional success the “A” team – consisting of the oldest and most advanced girls in Pop Warner Cheerleading - has had this year is fitting, as for many this is the last year the girls will compete as a group before aging out of the program.
“Out of the 19 girls, 16 of them will not be returning,” Fichtner said. “I personally have coached several over the years, so it is bittersweet … to see so many of these girls going on to the high school level.
“But my philosophy is to teach these girls the fundamentals, teach them the teamwork … to prepare them for things they will encounter in life and high school,” she said.
While the hardest part is behind them, the girls are facing a new challenge of raising money for the trip.
According to Fichtner, the goal is to raise $25,000 before they leave Dec. 5 So far, they have raised $13,000.
“The girls haven’t got as much fund-raising [as I thought they would], being the first time in the history in the town and the sport,” Fichtner said.
The team hopes to do some last minute fund-raising by encouraging people to visit their website to donate or email some of the moms on the team.
The girls have also been at local farmer’s markets and standing in front of Dunkin' Donuts looking for donations.
“We’re trying to do whatever we can do to raise funds. We just found out like two weeks ago because, their competition was to qualify them for nationals. It’s not something you can fund-raise throughout the year for,” Canelli said.
However, hopes are still high, and if anything, the competition will be the perfect way to round out the season, and their youth cheerleading carrer, for many on the Pop Warner team.
For more information, email Gloria O’Connell Cheer, President, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Julie Canelli at email@example.com.