The intrigue of Friday night football is in the air - bright lights, screaming fans, bands playing, and… cheerleaders.
To most, they’re the teenagers standing on the sideline shouting cheers and shaking pom-poms. For Nation Ford senior Kayla Causey, cheerleading has a whole different meaning. It doesn’t stop after Friday night or when her team’s playoffs end in November, and it won’t stop after high school either.
Causey has been in contact with coaches at Clemson University and the University of North Carolina- Chapel Hill. She’s proof that recruiting and college scholarships aren’t just limited to the football field.
Causey enjoys watching football so she feels it would be cool to cheer for a college team. Collegiate cheerleading teams require higher skill levels, which is where Causey’s experience with all-star cheerleading gives her an edge.
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Causey is a member of the Royal Cats, a Level 5 team at Cheer Athletics, based in Charlotte. She began gymnastics at 3 years old, but didn’t begin cheerleading until high school. Her transition to cheer was easy thanks to her gymnastics background, which built her athletic ability and endurance. That’s helped her reach Level 5 all-star cheerleading, the highest level possible.
“All-star cheerleading is a lot more competitive,” said Causey. “We do a lot harder skills.”
As Kayla Causey pointed out, all-star cheerleading is a bit of a misnomer because the all-star teams do little actual “cheering,” and they don’t support another team.
Both styles of cheerleading contain tumbling, stunting and dancing, but music plays throughout all-star cheerleading routines and there is no connection to supporting a team or a school.
Most colleges do not typically recruit for cheerleading like other sports. Instead, they rely on the cheerleaders to first decide which school they would like to attend, and then contact the coaches about trying out for the cheerleading team. Collegiate cheerleading teams host clinics where they invite current high school cheerleaders to showcase their talent. These clinics consist of all day sessions where cheerleaders demonstrate their best tumbling and stunting – cheerleading aerial acrobatics -, as well as cheering and dancing abilities.
Brandon Arbogast, Causey’s head coach for all-star cheerleading, said that colleges sometimes come to all-star gyms to share information about their clinics. He explained how colleges look to all-star gyms before looking at high schools, in search of potential college cheerleaders.
After speaking with both the Clemson and UNC coaches, Causey says they both seem interested.
“To my knowledge Nation Ford has only had one or two cheerleaders go on to cheer in college,” said Nation Ford coach Kelly Yates. She says Causey’s success is exciting for the program, and has boosted the popularity of the sport at the school.
Causey has been a huge impact for both of her cheerleading teams over the years and has tried her best to help both teams succeed. Yates gushed how Causey is a “natural born leader” and is always encouraging, yet humble towards all of her teammates. “I can’t pick one specific thing that she is best at,” Yates said. Arbogast said that Causey is one of his “stronger athletes” on the Level 5 team, as she is a “really strong base and a great tumbler.”
She does all of this with a full schedule. All-star cheerleading practice doesn’t start until 7:30 p.m., and Causey maintains a full slate of advanced placement classes at Nation Ford. School work is often done in the car driving to and from practices, but grades are crucial for her college choice, because she has to first be accepted to any school she would cheer for.
Causey said that once a cheerleader makes the team at Clemson, they are automatically given an amount of money each year that can increase annually. The scholarship is not given until the cheerleader is already enrolled at the school and on the team. Causey said that she has friends that are cheerleaders at UNC and that they have helped her get to know the coaches.
Causey isn’t sure whether she is leaning towards Clemson or UNC. Both of her parents attended UNC and she grew up wanting to go there.
“It would be even more exciting to cheer there,” Causey said. But, Clemson has recently become a strong interest of hers as well. Causey won’t announce her decision at a signing day like most sports, we’ll have to wait and watch the UNC and Clemson sidelines next fall to find out where she lands.