Recently Issaquah 360 met with Jule Gunn, the director and founder of Issaquah Youth Cheerleading.
Several years ago, her son played football for Issaquah Youth Football while in middle school.
Jule, who had been a cheerleader through high school and early in college, thought the football games were very quiet.
This motivated her to ask the football organization if she could start the Cheer Chapter for Issaquah Youth Football. Her request was approved. That was three years ago.
The Cheer Team organizes by age. Minis are third, fourth and fifth grade. Juniors are sixth, seventh and eighth grade.
The cheerleaders are divided up into squads and cheer for the football team they have been assigned to, usually related to their age and school. The cheerleaders can even wear their cheerleading outfit to school on Fridays
They also march in the Salmon Days Festival Parade. In 2013, they were thrilled to win second place at the parade.
The organization emphasizes creating a safe place for the girls. It all starts with the foundational principle that this is non-competitive cheer. There are no tryouts for this program. Members sign up on a first come, first served basis. Registration for the team ends on May 31.
There are a lot of different cheers and songs to learn. In August, they train together Monday to Thursday for two hours each day to learn all the cheers.
Also in the August training and at all practices thereafter, Jule says they seek to get this core group of girls to come together, set a foundation for values of self-respect and respecting others. They have a no bullying policy. They seek to create a group that can stay together through the rest of elementary, middle and high school.
Safety is an important consideration as well. Their program focuses on developing strong dance and cheer fundamentals but do not throw girls in the air or employ other advanced stunts.
Even though the group is part of the 501(c)3 non-profit that also runs the Issaquah Youth Football programs, the cheer team is run by a group of eight women.
They are parents of girls on the team. These parent coaches teach, accompany these girls to every game and carry the first aid kit.
The cheer team could possibly be larger, but because it is a parent-run organization, they need more parent volunteers/coaches to do so.
The first year they only had 45 girls participate in this program. In 2014, they expect to have over 100 girls involved. Registration continues, as we said, until May 31 but they are almost completely full. They have only a few age group spots left.