Shifting perceptions

Cheer captains want NPHS to see the squad’s service and dedication.


Sophia Walsh

Cheer captains Haeley Folk and Lauren Ginn perform during their 6:15 a.m. practice with their team on Nov. 11.

Sophia Walsh, Editor in Chief

The sun isn’t up at 5:40 a.m., but seniors Haeley Folk and Lauren Ginn are. Every day, the two North Platte High School cheer captains wake up early to lead their squad.

Folk and Ginn are this year’s captains of the North Platte High School cheerleading squad. Both seniors say as cheer captains, they assist in leading practices, help choreograph routines, and plan out what the cheerleaders will be wearing on game days, among many other things that usually seem invisible to their peers. 

Sophomores Ashlyn Hayes (front) and Braelyn Byrns (right), and junior Graesyn Buttler (left) practice a half-time cheerleading routine on Nov. 16. (Sophia Walsh)

Other than learning and performing new cheers for games, the cheer team spends class hours and after school making posters for upcoming sports, and are in the process of planning North Platte High School’s annual Purple Out event. While the student body participates in the Purple Out event Folk feels they don’t know how much work goes into it behind the scenes. 

On top of being involved within the school the cheer team is often invited to represent the community in events like fun nights, elementary school assemblies, and charity efforts. “Last year we raised some money to buy a janitor at McDonald school a new van. So it’s not necessarily just within the school; we do everything around the community,” said Ginn.

Both agree that cheer is often underappreciated by their peers. They think that if everyone could see how much of a commitment the activity is and how much the team does behind the scenes, they’d see it’s importance. 

Folk thinks it’s a lasting stigma that cheerleaders are just there to shake their pom poms and cheer on the team.  “There’s the stigma that cheerleaders are dumb blondes, but when you look at it, over half the team has 4.0 GPA’s and are all involved in other [activities] or sports too,” she said.

On average, Folk said she spends upwards of five hours a day working on projects for the cheerleading team, which doesn’t include the time she spends on game nights cheering on NPHS. 

I never want to single anyone out and make them feel like they aren’t an important part of the team.

— Haeley Folk

Ginn and Folk know that not everyone sees cheer as a sport, but on top of the team’s time commitment, the activity can take a physical toll on the body. “If you were to go to a competition and watch Millard West High School do a routine and the physicality that goes into that, every single one of them are in ankle braces, leg braces, shoulder braces; it’s crazy,” she said.

Folk said competitive cheerleading can be physically draining.  “It takes a lot of cardiovascular health, and it takes a lot of muscles to be able to do all the jumps and all the tumbles,” she said.

As one of the cheer captains, Folk works hard to create an inclusive and supportive environment for the team’s members. Her goals for this year are to do well at State and hopes to have the team be more respected. 

After she graduates, Folk hopes she leaves a lasting legacy of a unified team by building stronger relationships and making sure everyone is being included. “I never want to single anyone out and make them feel like they aren’t an important part of the team,” she said. ”That’s something we’ve stressed since the beginning of this season– that everyone is a piece of the puzzle.”