Fanai Williams, a 16-year-old junior on the varsity cheerleading squad at Loy Norrix, can be seen from the doorway of the back gym going through her cheers. She has a profound smile on her face, which lights up her dark brown eyes, and she is working hard, tiny beads of sweat beginning to break on the crest of her forehead.
“We practice four days a weeks for two hours,” Williams said. “We were really good last year.”
Williams is hoping to do better this year, as it’s beginning to draw to a close. She doubts her team will make it, but she’s still pressing on with an optimistic mood. Her team practices for the games they attend on Fridays. Williams holds up one of her teammates, keeping a tight grip on the girl’s foot. Her knees are slightly bent to support the weight of the girl, and she checks to make sure she doesn’t lose her footing on the somewhat slippery hardwood floor. Flyers, the ones to be held by the bases, have been known to accidentally fall during games and practices.
“One time, one of the flyers fell to the floor. There were no mats there to break her fall, and she got a bad concussion,” Williams said. “I once got hit by a different flyer’s foot, on the collarbone. But al I got for it was a nasty bruise.”
Out of the United States’ 29 million female high school athletes, only 3 percent are cheerleaders. And yet, cheerleading accounts for nearly 65 percent of all catastrophic injuries in all girl’s high school athletics. Williams looks up warily at the girl she is holding, hoping she doesn’t fall and cost the team another injury.
“I have an easy position as the base,” Williams said, “but if I would’ve known that this was a dangerous sport, I wouldn’t have started doing it back in 7th grade. But I like how it feels. It’s fun and I like how I’m known from it.”
Her team often cheers at pep rallies, basketball games, and football games. Williams, being a junior, only has one more year of high school to make all her hard work really worth the trouble. In that short amount of time, she hopes she can make it without any more injuries, but still have fun while cheering for her school.