Tag Archive | "cheerleading"

Bridgehampton School to Look Into Competitive Cheerleading

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By Tessa Raebeck

Bridgehampton High School could become a local powerhouse in competitive cheerleading, if Athletic Director Eric Bramoff gets his wish. With its history of strong basketball and traditional cheerleading programs, the school may pursue hosting a competitive team on which girls would perform flips, mounts and other coordinated gymnastics-style moves on mats against other teams.

Contending in a division based on school size, the team would compete in four meets across Long Island throughout the school year. The current cheerleading team, which Mr. Bramoff said is in favor of switching from traditional to competitive cheer, would also continue to support the boys’ basketball program, cheering the Killer Bees on at home and away games, Mr. Bramoff told the Board of Education when pitching the idea at its meeting on December 17.

“I feel like if we really put our eggs into being the best cheerleading program out here, I think our girls—our high school and our modified-level girls—will have something they can hang their hats on,” said Mr. Bramoff. Modified-level refers to the middle school team of seventh and eighth grade athletes. Although it’s anticipated the team would primarily consist of girls, boys would be welcome to join as well.

The distinction between traditional and competitive cheerleading is measured by its intensity. In competitive cheerleading, the girls leave the mat, vaulting into the air with athletic flips and tricks, while in traditional cheering, other than the occasional lift, their feet remain on the ground. Competitive cheerleading is a modernized version of the sport in which girls’ athleticism and teamwork come first.

Bridgehampton, a prekindergarten through grade 12 school with an enrollment of less than 200, depends heavily on shared sports services with neighboring districts in Sag Harbor and East Hampton. A competitive cheerleading team, Mr. Bramoff said, would draw in girls from those schools, which do not have their own programs, and give Bridgehampton a new point of pride.

Sag Harbor has already expressed interest in a combined team, said Mr. Bramoff, who told the school board that although the girls from Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor would compete together at their cheerleading meets, they would still do traditional cheerleading on the sidelines at their respective schools separately.

Mr. Bramoff asked the board to support his idea by including “some resources for turning our cheerleading team into a competitive cheerleading team” in the budget for the next school year, 2015-16. The exact cost is yet to be determined.

Section XI, the governing body for school sports in Suffolk County, is looking into how to define a cheerleading team and make it a certified competitive sport on Eastern Long Island. Several questions asked by the board last week have yet to be answered by Section XI, such as the specific costs and whether the team’s season would extend through the whole school year or be separated by different seasons, like fall or winter cheer.

“There are a lot of questions out there and the reason that I want to do this…our girls need something,” said Mr. Bramoff, adding, “We’ve had great cheerleading teams here forever and we’ve put resources into it and I think, as everybody else adapts, I think it would be advantageous for us to say, you know what, we still have the best cheerleading team and we’re going to hang the banners on the wall.”

Mr. Bramoff does not think it’s possible to maintain both a competitive cheerleading program and a girls basketball program, but said, “obviously, if we have [girls] that would like to play basketball, we still have that relationship with Sag Harbor.”

The board gave Mr. Bramoff the go-ahead to further explore the creation of a team.

The next meeting of the school board will be on January 28, 2015, in the Bridgehampton School cafeteria.

Self-Taught Gymnast Thrives At Pierson

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Gymnast adjusted

By Claire Walla

To some, 15-year-old Rojdrefa Patterson is known as the girl who flips.

If you’ve been to a Pierson High School basketball games, you’ve probably seen it. In a black-and-red mini-skirt and knit top with the initials “PHS,” Patterson flips not once, not twice, but several times in rapid succession down the length of the wooden court. Sometimes she ends her impromptu routines with the splits, which she sinks into effortlessly, the way anyone else might sink into a chair.

Of course, acrobatics are nothing new for high school cheerleading, a sport which has garnered a respectable reputation in the sports world in the last few years.

But Patterson’s case is unique. Her talent comes not from cheer camp or gymnastics classes; she learned from watching YouTube clips, and by copying her Dad.

A native of the island of Jamaica — where gymnastics is a common form of physical education — Roj Patterson taught his daughter how to flip at a young age.

“The first time I tried to do a flip, I knocked my two front teeth out,” Patterson said with a grin. “I was four.”

Since then, Patterson has gone to Marine Park here in Sag Harbor to hone her skills. She’s taught herself how to do a front handspring, a double back handspring, a triple toe touch and even a back tuck.  (The latter she even taught to her recently acquired gymnastics coach, a retired Level Ten gymnast, who was once captain of the Empire State Games.)

Last year, Patterson’s self-taught skills led her to victory at the annual Cheer for a Cure event held in Hampton Bays, where she walked away with Best Double Touch for the jumping sequence competition. Patterson recalled competing against girls who had had formal training.

By comparison, Patterson uses her 14-year-old brother as a spotter.

“One day, it was winter, and I was cold, but I was like: I don’t care, I’m going to do something really stupid,” Patterson remembered. Her brother had been spotting her as she attempted to complete a full back tuck, supporting her with his hand while in the air. “I told him to remove his hand… and I got it!”

Patterson came to Pierson as a freshman after graduating from Stella Maris in 2010. When she learned of the cheerleading team, she quickly got on board.

Again, she said inherent fearlessness lead the way.

“When I first started, I didn’t know how to do a flip on the wooden floor,” Patterson said. “So one day I just winged it, and I got it,” she continued nonchalantly. (Patterson did, however, also admit to having crossed her heart before she took the leap.)

Patterson’s self-taught acrobatics was something Anjela Krsikapa said she was shocked to discover.

At 25-years-old, Krsikapa is already a retired Level 10 gymnast (the highest possible ranking) and now teaches cheerleading and coaches gymnastics for the Ross School.

Krsikapa first saw “the girl who flips” when she went with her team to a Ross/Pierson basketball game last year. Although, it took her a year to figure out who she was.

While dining at Tapas in Bridgehampton recently, Krsikapa had a chance encounter with Patterson’s mother (unbeknownst to her at the time), who spoke of her cheerleading daughter, and showed video on her camera phone of Patterson propelling her body across half-court.

“Oh my God, I’ve been looking for that girl!” Krsikapa recalled. “Her mother told me that, by some miracle, that girl was all self-taught — I called her the very next day.”

Krsikapa said there is no one else like Patterson here on the East End. In fact, she said, it’s almost serendipitous she and Patterson should find each other.

As it so happens, Krsikapa first learned how to flip by watching her parents, for whom gymnastics was a routine part of physical education, as kids growing up in Montenegro.

“There’s a real lack of gymnastics out here,” Krsikapa explained.

But since she’s started the program at Ross, she said interest has been steadily increasing, adding that she’s noticed “a real demand for it.”

Krsikapa mostly works with younger kids who take gymnastics as an after-school activity and are still learning the basics. She said she’s thrilled to have found Rojdrefa.

With Krsikapa’s guidance, Patterson is learning how to do what she already does, but with proper form.

Patterson is essentially going back to basics, to learn the fundamentals of balance and form that Krsikapa said will prevent injuries in the future. She’s even had to learn how to stretch — that quick back bend she would do before a sequence of flips was just not cutting it.

(Before a cheerleading competition called Cheer for a Cure last year, for example, Patterson won several contests, including one for completing the most back handsprings in a row: 10. Not having stretched before the routine, Patterson said she woke up the next day and could barely get out of bed.)

Krsikapa has put a major emphasis on proper preparation.

“The first two weeks of practice I was just learning stretches,” Patterson exclaimed with wide-eyed emphasis. “I was so sore I was crying!”

According to Krsikapa, if Patterson continues to train, at the rate she will be able to compete as a Level 8 gymnast. In a nutshell, a Level 8 gymnast is one who can perform in all four events — balance beam, uneven bars, floor and vault — without a spotter, and bring some creativity to each routine.

Krsikapa said she could be ready for competition by the fall.

When asked where she gets the motivation and the courage try new stunts, Patterson said she likes to prove people wrong. (Sometimes her younger brother likes to wager what she can and can’t do.)

A self-proclaimed adrenaline junkie, Patterson continued, “I just put it in my mind that I can do this, and I do.”