One of the favorite traditions at Wylie’s Meet the Bulldogs is seeing the Pup Squad cheerleaders. More than 200 girls, ages 5-10, performed at this year’s event after having learned the material only two days earlier during Pup Squad camp.
For the girls, Pup Squad is fun. It’s about learning to be a cheerleader. High school cheer coach, Krystal Martin, said she really loves the tradition of Pup Squad and Meet the Bulldogs. “It’s really neat to see the interest in cheer and the school spirit and pride at such a young age,” said Martin.
Third grader Harper Potillo, who was attending her third Pup Squad camp, said she was looking forward to “learning how to do cheer jumps,” and said “dancing at Meet the Bulldogs is always awesome.”
Five-year-old twin sisters, Ellis and Blake Bunnell, who were new to Pup Squad said “it was all fun” although Ellis said “learning the dance was the most fun.”
Just like these girls, many of the varsity, JV and junior high cheerleaders attended Pup Squad years ago. Now, however, the fun is found in the opportunity to invest in others the way they were invested in when younger.
Senior varsity cheerleader, Kenzie Wilson, said she had attended Pup Squad every year when she was younger. “I remember the games and learning the same cheers,” she said. “Now I am the one teaching them, and it’s awesome for it to come full-circle like this.”
Wilson said she recalls being impressed that the older cheerleaders would take time to teach her, not realizing then the reciprocal impact. “Now, it’s seeing the connection when helping a little girl understand what I meant with a funny phrase or silly exercise,” said Wilson. “Watching her face light up because now she knows what I am talking about is the best feeling.”
In addition to teaching cheer skills, the varsity cheerleaders focus on leadership. Faith Cary, a senior varsity cheerleader, said teaching good cheer skills is important, but not more than teaching the girls to be good leaders.
“The most rewarding part of working with the girls is to teach them to be leaders,” said Cary. “Showing the girls patience, encouragement, and kindness is one the most valuable things we can show them.”
Alexis Hughes, who coaches alongside Martin, has seen the positive impact of Pup Squad first-hand as a coach, but even longer as a mom. Her daughter Paige, who is now a junior and varsity cheerleader, has attended Pup Squad since kindergarten. Hughes has seen Paige go from the little girl learning the cheers to the cheerleader teaching the cheers and now to a young adult who has come to realize investing in children is in her future.
Hughes said when Paige was younger, she cried a little and wasn’t sure about the mascots. Now, years later, she came home from Pup Squad and exclaimed, “Now I know I have to teach little kids; I loved today so much!”
“It’s fun to watch her find her calling while working with little kids,” said Hughes. “I’m thankful for Wylie traditions, and I’m thankful that our cheer program has helped guide her.”
By Kristen Johnson