Squashing Stereotypes

Felicity Wenger, Editor-in-Chief

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Senior Alex Nguyen has dreamt of becoming a cheerleader since he was just ten years old. After attending The Summit cheer competition in Florida, his heart was set on cheer. Now, almost eight years later, Alex’s dreams are coming true. However, his journey had a slow beginning.

The first day of tryouts I dropped out because I thought I wasn’t good enough,” Alex said. Originally Alex planned to try out for the team his sophomore year, but his nerves got the best of him. He was completely new to cheerleading, and would be one of the only boys to have ever tried out.

“I’m the third guy to try out in Olathe East history,” Alex said. With this being considered, Alex decided to step up to the plate and destroy cheerleading stereotypes, making varsity his senior year. This wasn’t a difficult decision for him as he regretted not trying out sooner and was aching to become more involved at school.

While Alex participates in many other activities and clubs at school, athletics wasn’t one of them. Wanting to change this, he stuck to his roots, considering his entire family was involved in either cheer or gymnastics. In fact, one of his biggest inspirations was his sister. 

“My little sister was a competitive cheerleader and once I saw her [competing] I dreamed of being on stage. I was just thinking ‘wow, I wanna be her,’ and now here I am going to NCA in a month or two,” Alex said. The NCA, or National Cheerleaders Association finals, are going to be held this February in Dallas, Texas. An insane amount of preparation goes into a competition like this, but Alex has no fear.

Keeping up with the girls can be challenging for Alex, considering he’s still new to cheer. However, this only keeps him motivated. He wants to be, and knows he can be just as skilled as the girls. 

“I do not believe I’m odd or out of place. I feel like this team is my second family,” Alex said. Being a male, and a male flyer at that, may leave people scratching their heads, but Alex loves the opportunity he’s been given. He wants people to know that males can cheer too, and loves seeing other males on high school cheer squads. With this being considered, being the only boy can be difficult at times.

“I love the fact that I’m the only boy on the cheer team, but I think mentally it’d be great to have another male,” Alex said. Luckily, Alex’s coaches are largely supportive of him. Even though he’s only known her for half a year, his head coach Haley Sestak has become a reliable outlet for Alex. 

Sadly, the cheerleading season will be coming to a close in March, meaning Alex’s high school career in cheerleading will end soon as well. Although he fears he may not physically be what coaches are looking for, he wants to continue cheering into his college years.

“I’m not ready for my season to end yet, and I would love to cheer in college,” Alex said. Regardless of his fears, he has high hopes of joining a college squad. His positivity and ability to lead are what prove to him that he belongs with cheerleading.

 

Dance has been a passion of sophomore Carter SalaczPlantz’s for many years. In fact, he began dancing when he was only ten years old. It all started when his mother noticed him dancing around the house.

“My sister started dance two years before me, so I started just dancing around the house and my mom said ‘Hey, you should join the studio your sister’s at.’ I was like ‘alright, I’ll try it,’” Carter said. Other than “World of Dance”, his sister was one of his biggest inspirations to start dancing, and soon enough, he fell in love. This studio would be the place Carter would dance for the next five years. Every night he was dancing from 4:30 to 9:00, but when he joined the school dance team, this all became too much for him.

“I didn’t have time to do both,” Carter said. Although he misses the friends he made at his studio, he actually wanted to join the dance team sooner than he did. However, now that he’s made it, he has nothing but good things to say about the Talons.

“The team is very supportive. They’re doing a really good job of welcoming me,” Carter said. Being the first boy to ever join the dance team, some may think Carter would be nervous, but he claims otherwise. In fact, he the only boy at his studio as well.

“I’m pretty used to being the only guy,” Carter said. However, this doesn’t mean things don’t get lonely at times. In fact, Carter jumped at the proposal of an all-boys dance team. Regardless of his position, dance won’t be going away any time soon.

“I don’t want to go pro, but it’d be really fun to do in college,” Carter said. He’s also considered pursuing color guard, which was introduced to him through dance. Regardless, Carter believes he has gained the opportunities he has for a reason.

“Everyone belongs to anything they pursue,” Carter said. His hard work and decision to join the dance team, even though it consisted of all girls, has paid off. He has high hopes for his future, as well as other male dancers, and encourages them to step up, just like he did.

 

Junior Harley Hull began her football career back at her old school, Samuel Clemmens, in Texas. She was just a sophomore when she started playing, but her love for the sport had already been established.

“I have always loved the sport so why not try it out?” Harley said. The fact that the team would consist solely of boys was never a threat to Harley. In fact, it hardly crossed her mind, as she was too focused on getting into the game. Just like the guys, Harley gets put into games and practices a fair amount of time. However, after a while, she started noticing some differences between her and the boys.

“There [are] some plays that they don’t necessarily want to do because it’s invading my privacy and I can see where they’re coming from, but I would still do the plays. Down in Texas they still did them,” Harley said. Even though she’d rather be immersed in the action, this sacrifice continues to be one Harley’s willing to make. A problem like this could be avoided if she chose to play on an all girl’s team, but Harley sees nothing attractive about the forms of football that are traditionally offered to girls. 

“There’s different rules for girls and you get treated differently. That’s not what I’m here for. [I] want to play the same way with the same rules, the same respect as the guys,” Harley said. Many girls choose to participate in different forms of football that include less contact, like flag football, but this just isn’t what Harley’s looking for. She has never felt left out or intimidated by her male teammates, however she feels a bit of pressure from her opponents. 

“When they find out I’m a girl, they don’t necessarily like it,” Harley said. Even with this being considered, Harley still wouldn’t trade her spot on the boy’s team for one on a girls team. However, she was fond of the idea of another girl joining the football team. 

“I really want to let other girls know they can join. If they want help they are more than welcome to ask and they can talk to me or Coach Owen,” Harley said. Coach Owen was the reason Harley made it onto the team. She would be the first girl he’d ever coached, and the first girl to play football for Olathe East but he took the challenge. However, high school will only be the beginning of Harley’s football career.

Harley has big dreams for her future. She wants to continue to play football into her college years, but college isn’t where her dreams stop either.

“I actually want to be the first girl to go into the men’s NFL,” Harley said. Harley has commitment that she claims many others are lacking, and truly believes she can achieve this goal. Even though she knows she may have a better chance of getting into the NWFA (National Women’s Football Association), she would rather continue to play by the same rules and standards that the boys do. She also encourages other girls to follow in her footsteps.

“It’s hard but it’s not hard to try. Girls can do anything guys can do,” Harley said.