Leave your stereotypes, frilly pom-poms and cheesy “Go-Fight-Win” chants at the door.

This is all-star cheerleading, where the cheerleaders don’t root for other athletes – they are the athletes. It’s a physically demanding sport that is rapidly growing in Southern Idaho.

Photo © Jason LugoNewsweek reported in 2007 that the number of all-star cheer participants was on the rise, with an estimated 1.5 million in the United States. Keeping up with the national trend, the largest groups in Southern Idaho are Planet Cheer and Magic Valley Eagles in Twin Falls, and Soldier Mountain All-Stars in Fairfield. Each program trains kids from ages 3 to 18 and at all skill levels.

“All-star cheerleading in Idaho has really taken off in the past 10 years; this has been our biggest year ever,” says Andrea Pierce, owner of Magic Valley Eagles.

One of the highlights for the participants is traveling to competitions in Oregon, Boise, Salt Lake City and eastern Idaho. In March, Planet Cheer will take a team to nationals in Los Angeles. All of our local squads have enjoyed success by bringing home first place hardware.

“Cheerleading is a lot harder than everybody thinks it is,” says 15-year-old Britni Budd of Planet Cheer. “It takes a lot of stamina and endurance and you have to work really hard for it.”

All-star cheerleading offers much more than just physical fitness benefits.

Photo © Jason Lugo“Our program teaches kids teamwork, discipline, dedication, self confidence, respect and commitment,” says Amanda Shaw, owner of Planet Cheer. “Our kids become a family and rely on each other.”

To help break the cheerleading stereotype in Southern Idaho, Shaw gives her program flavor from the East Coast, where all-star cheerleading is wildly popular. The flare is evident in the choreography, attitude, style and uniforms.

With elements of tumbling, stunting, dancing and jumping, all-star cheerleaders show what they’re capable of.

“It’s amazing to see what these kids can do, for how young they are,” Pierce says. “It’s hard to explain to someone who hasn’t participated in it, but it truly is a sport. The kids work extremely hard to get to where they need to be.”

As an all-star cheerleader at Planet Cheer and captain of the Buhl High varsity squad, Grady Carlton can see the differences between high school and all-star cheerleading.

Photo © Jason Lugo“The biggest difference is work ethic,” he says. “(All-star) is a lot more intense. A lot of people think that cheerleading is just ‘Go Team Go,’ but that’s just because they’ve only seen high school cheerleading and they’ve never seen college or competitive cheerleading.”

Carlton proves that cheerleading can be a manly sport as well. He enjoys the athleticism, as well as the fun team atmosphere. With the many hours he dedicates to the sport, Carlton is also investing in his future – he plans to use cheerleading as a way through college, since hundreds of universities across the country offer full-ride scholarships to talented cheerleaders. His goal is the prestigious program at the University of Kentucky.

“I’m trying to better myself and prepare for (college),” Carlton says. “It’s more than a hobby, it’s a lifestyle for me.”

Now that’s something to cheer about.

For more information on Southern Idaho cheerleading contact one of the following:
Magic Valley Eagles – Andrea Pierce (208) 420-3361
Planet Cheer – Amanda Shaw
Spirit n’ Motion Athletic School – Amanda (208)720-4306
formerly known as the Soldier Mountain All Stars