For the Argyle secondary senior cheerleading team, the secret is in the warmup.
They aren’t trying to make it intentionally bad, but they’re happiest when the warmup routine goes really, really poorly.
“A bad warmup is a good performance, and a good warmup is a bad performance,” says co-head coach Danielle Stickney with a laugh. “That’s a superstition that I have.”
That’s why the Pipers were nervously optimistic following their warmup routine at the biggest competition in team history, the 2017 World School Cheerleading Championship put on by the Universal Cheerleaders Association Feb. 11-12 in Orlando, Fla.
“They had a terrible warmup,” says Stickney, who coaches the team along with fellow Argyle grad Kelly McNally. “It was one of the worst I’ve ever seen. The stunts were falling. They didn’t hit the ground or anything, but nothing was really going right. It was very frantic, no one really remembered how to do anything. … I was like: ‘they’re ready.’”
The Pipers were there to perform a routine they’d been working on for nearly a year. They earned the chance to compete in Florida by scoring well at the 2016 Sea to Sky Cheerleading Championships held in Vancouver last year.
British Columbia isn’t a hotbed of cheerleading, so competitions are hard to come by. The Pipers started practising twice a week in August and the World School Cheerleading Championship was their first competition of the year and one of only two they’ll take part in this season.
“It’s a very high-pressure situation,” Stickney says of spending all year prepping for one two-and-a-half-minute routine. “You kind of give it all or nothing. You’ve got to prepare them for the nerves that they’re going to feel, and hope that they deal with them well.”
In this instance, the Pipers handled the nerves perfectly. After the warmup, of course.
When it was all on the line the team went on stage and knocked out a nearly perfect routine, scoring zero deductions as they yelled, smiled, danced and flipped their way to a silver medal showing in their six-team division, large varsity non-tumbling world group. Argyle also won bragging rights as the top Canadian team, receiving the highest score of the 16 Canadian squads competing in the five non-tumbling divisions at the championships (non-tumbling teams do all of the lifts, throws and stunts that tumbling teams do without the gymnastics-floor-routine style passes).
“(Zero deductions) is pretty incredible,” says Stickney. “A lot of world-level teams can’t do that even at the all-star level. … We did have a few minor bobbles, but they were saved well and the energy stayed up.”
The team, 20 girls in all, did really well, says Hannah Coe, co-captain along with Elizabeth Gock and Jade Stringer. “I think we did amazing, I was really proud of my team.”
When their routine was over there was nothing left to do but wait as the judges counted down the results in reverse order. Three names were called and Argyle was still on the board, guaranteed a top-three spot in their division.
“We were all freaking out by that point,” says Coe. “I remember I was holding my friend’s hand and we had our heads against each other and we were almost crying.”
One more name came and then Argyle was announced, second in the world in their division.
“We just erupted with screaming. We were so happy about it,” says Coe. “We’re all kind of shocked that we got second place. We didn’t expect to get second place at all. … We wanted to make Danielle and Kelly, our coaches, proud, for all the time they put in for us.”
There’s no doubt that they accomplished that goal.
“Oh my gosh we were so excited,” says Stickney. “It was way more than we ever expected. We went to have fun and enjoy the experience, and it turned out to be such an incredible experience and they performed amazingly. … It was definitely a nice surprise. We went in pretty much with no expectations but were blown away by the attitude of the athletes and their positivity and energy. It was very exciting to watch it all come together.”