By Naeisha Rose
The Queens Southside Seahawks cheerleading squad will compete in Florida for the 2018 American Youth Football & Cheer National Competition in December.
The squad previously earned second place in the eastern regional leg of the competition New Jersey in both step and cheer.
It’s the fourth time in five years that the team, which practices at Virgil Grissom Middle School in South Ozone Park, made it to the nationals, and last year they won their first competition, according to the team’s Director Kim Wilson.
In the past, they have made it to the finals for dance and step.
“It is the first time we’ve placed and get a chance to compete in cheer at the national level,” head coach Taieisha Charles said. “So I’m extremely excited about that!”
The team started with seven members — it had 11 the previous year — and since winning nationals for dance and second place for step in 2017 it has nearly doubled its membership to 19, according to Charles.
“This year was the first time we’ve competed with a team of 19 girls,” said Charles. “It was challenging but well worth it because these girls have worked extremely hard this season.”
The team consists of 5 to 12-year-old members who practice two hours a day, four days a week at the school, located at 121-10 Rockaway Blvd. Most of the girls hail from St. Albans, Cambria Heights, South Ozone Park, Springfield Gardens, Rosedale; some have made the trip from Brooklyn and Long Island to train, according to Wilson.
To improve the girls cheer routine in order for them to compete in that category for the national level Wilson got copyright approved pre-mixed cheer music from IPP that adheres to the musical length for cheer routines, according to the director.
“This year I actually had to pay for the music out of my own pocket,” said Wilson. “We didn’t have enough money in the account, but I knew it was something that I wanted for the girls,” said Wilson.
Music from the company ranges from $260 to $600, according to Wilson. This year the girls practiced to a fusion of techno, R&B and hip-hop for the cheer routines.
“As a director, I’m doing what I can do to help the girls and keep them positive,” said Wilson. “I don’t want them to be afraid to compete in cheer.”
One of the ways that Wilson, Charles, and the entire Southside Seahawks staff has helped the girls was by getting them training in tumbling at Power Moves Gymnastics and Fitness located in Valley Stream, according to the director. With the team’s large size Wilson was able to get a group discount for the girls for $12 week for an hour lesson as long as 10 girls make it for the lessons.
“Most places charge $90 to $100 a month for each girl for an hour,” said Wilson. “We were fortunate to find someone that was willing to give us a discount and work with the girls.”
With the girls being minorities from an urban area, it’s not lost on Wilson that gymnastics is not something that they are always exposed to.
“They can compete in cheer like everybody else,” said Wilson. “Take your chance. Either you are going to win or you are going to lose, but if you never try you are always going to lose.”
The Southside Seahawks are expected to participate in the competition from Dec. 7 to Dec. 9 in Orlando.
“It’s the first time a lot of my girls have ever cheered so I try to put that confidence in them and just let them know no matter the outcome I’m super proud of what we have accomplished this year,” said Charles. “I’m already looking forward to the 2019 season.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose