When the high school football team took to the field last year for the annual Island Cup game, there were no Vineyard cheerleaders. Nantucket had brought their squad, and the Vineyard junior high team performed their routine at the earlier middle school game, but the purple and white had no sideline representation.
That will change this fall as junior high coaches Sue Costello and Shannon Capra take their talents to the high school level to rebuild the program, which was absent last season after years of shrinking attendance. Mrs. Costello began coaching the junior high girls five years ago, and Ms. Capra came on board three years ago. Both have cheerleading backgrounds — Mrs. Costello cheered through high school, and was part of a nationally competitive musical corps. Ms. Capra began cheering when she was seven, was part of both a co-ed and all-girls squad in high school, and was captain of her Plymouth State University team in college before entering the coaching world. A former team of Ms. Capra’s came one point away from winning a national cheerleading title.
“You want to give back,”Mrs. Costello said.
Their short-term goal is simple — this fall, they simply want to have cheerleaders — but ultimately they hope to bring the cheerleading level to a point where the Vineyard team could compete as well. If the skill level for the junior high team is any indication, that may not be far off. The team attended a cheer competition for the Blackstone Valley Conference last year, which was an “eye-opening experience” for the both cheerleaders and their coaches, Ms. Capra said.
“Watching some of the other groups at the competition, there were definitely some higher-level teams there, but we both said, “[The Vineyarders] could compete, they could do it,’” Mrs. Costello said.
“Just in being a public figure, being a mentor — I think it’s important that it start from the top down,” Ms. Capra said of the decision to restart at the high school level. Having a group of older girls as role models on the field and in the community is important for the younger set, she said. And for the members of the squad, cheerleading opens doors for college scholarships.
In the long term, the coaches hope to extend the cheer season through the winter, so the squad could cheer for the basketball teams. When the varsity boys traveled to the TD Garden in Boston this winter, Mrs. Costello, whose son Nick plays for the team, remembered counting 22 girls on the cheer squad for opponent Danvers.
“I just thought it’s such a shame that we don’t have the girls experiencing this as well,” she said.
An informational meeting for current high school students interested in joining the cheerleading squad will be held at 3 p.m. on Thursday, May 23, in the high school gymnasium. A meeting for eighth graders interested in joining will be held at 7 p.m. in the high school cafeteria.