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"Welcome to Cheer Chatter"

by Kelly Nicholson - Pop Warner Spirit Promotions Team
My name is Kelly Nicholson, the Southeast Region Spirit Promotions representative.  For this year's event, I will give highlights of the days competition, warm your heart with human interest stories from across the country, and give you a performers perspective of the National Experience.  Check back often for frequent updates every day!
Wake County Cowboys JPW Level 1 Small Cheerleaders

Pop Warner Spirit Promotions Team - Friday, December 12
We are the Wake County Cowboys JPW level 1 Small Cheerleaders from the Mid-South Region.  Our Head Coach is Anita Harris,  Assistant Coach Karen Blue and ACDC Tamara Mitchell.  We are very excited about our first time  qualifying for Nationals! The Cowboys were founded in 2010 and we have been trying to get here since then. 

Two weeks before our CFF local competition one of our flyers, Teri Mitchell, suffered a concussion at practice. Teri is the daughter of the ACDC and sister of one of the other flyers on the team. It has been a slow recovery for Teri, and she has still not been medically cleared to participate in cheer.

This team quickly made adjustments to prepare for competition. And they have rallied around Teri and encouraged her through her recovery. She has inspired them to cheer hard and win!

We have placed first in our CFF league (2 years in a row), ranked 2nd in the Mid South Region and on our way to see where we rank in the nation!

"Let's do this for Teri!" is often what is said amongst each other and said at the end of last Friday's team prayer lead by one of the cheerleaders Aislin Blue.

This Monday will be the same as the two competitions before. Teri seated with the cheer staff inspiring her team to win, and her team encouraging her to get well soon and doing their best!
Pop Warner Dance Doesn't Disappoint

Pop Warner Spirit Promotions Team - Thursday, December 11
Dance Day has always been one of the crowd favorites, and yesterday showed why.  This year allowed two different divisions for dance teams to compete in; POM PERFORMANCE or CHARACTER THEME. 

The Pom Performance remained the same as the last few years with an emphasis on Pom and a Jazz and Cheer Funk category.  Character Theme places the emphasis on the theme of the routine including costuming, music and props.  Both divisions entertained the crowd with creative costumes, fun make up, and lots of energy!  Themes included; patriotic, Beetle Juice, bad girls, and Grease just to name a few.

There were many veteran teams on the schedule, but quite a few new faces as well. The Bedford Jr. Bulldogs from the New England Region created their first dance team this year, and were enjoying every moment of the event.

Once again, the Eastern region dominated the day with Monmouth Falcons capturing three national titles in the Pom Division and the Rochester Rams, two of the four Theme divisions.

The Harvey Colts were the Midget Pom Champions. Richmond Perrine Giants from the Southeast and Naperville Chargers from Mid-America were the Pee Wee and Midget Theme National Champions respectively.

Tune in next year to see how Dance grows!!

Thursday Jr. Cheer Reporter: Abby Lafave (Roger Bacon Academy)

Pop Warner Spirit Promotions Team - Thursday, December 11
The Trojans were beyond happy after they competed at the National Championships! About half of the team had competed at the national level before, as this was their second year. The girls all agreed that the dance was their absolute favorite part about competing today; they had so much fun!

You can tell that this team loves the sport of cheerleading just by the smile on their face. They all plan on cheering after Pop Warner! Not only was the attitude of this team amazing, but their sportsmanship was astonishing. When I was done getting to know the girls, they walked through the hall way chanting “Good luck” to every team. Talking to the Bolingbrook Trojans was an amazing experience!

This was the first year cheering competitively for the Grand Park Eagles and they loved it! The girls worked tremendously hard fundraising for their trip. They had multiple fundraisers including a car wash, hosting dinner, and selling donuts! They had a great time performing and their coaches were so proud of them! The team was ready for the award ceremony and you can tell they truly enjoyed the experience.

The Indian girls were very excited for the award ceremony when I spoke to them after they competed. It was the first year at the National Championships for all of the girls and they were glowing! Jessica and Lexi told me that their favorite part of competing today was doing their stunts, especially the pyramid!

The girls said they joined Pop Warner as an opportunity to meet new friends, and they told me that they’ve grown into best friends throughout the season. They were very excited to watch the rest of the competition, and they can’t wait to go to the park and see  Minnie Mouse afterwards!

Wednesday Jr. Cheer Reporter: KENNEDY RENEE' WOOD (Austin, Texas)

Pop Warner Spirit Promotions Team - Wednesday, December 10
Kennedy interviewed: Torrey Pines Falcons. JPW (San Diego, CA)
Head Coach: Laurie McCarthy

The girls have worked very hard so that they could have a chance to make it all the way to Florida. The girls were very excited when they heard the announcer called their name because their team qualified for Nationals. Now they had to get started with fundraising to help with some of their cost. Today they are competing against a lot of teams but they are ready to take the mat with all of their winning smiles.

They are confident that they will get up all their stunt groups. After competition they are looking forward to riding the Tower of Terror. The girls love Mickey and Minnie Mouse and can’t wait for the parade with all the lights on Wednesday.

Told all the girls and coaches Good Luck Today!
Welcome Back!!! Today is Pee Wee Cheer

Pop Warner Spirit Promotions Team - Tuesday, December 9
Yesterday was Jr. Pee Wee. What a great day it was. It may have been overcast and raining outside, but the mood and spirit inside was anything but gloomy! The first day of competitive teams filled the HP Fieldhouse with excitement and anticipation. The moment every team has worked for since August 1st, was finally here and there is only two minutes and thirty seconds left to go!!

There was a blend of seasoned, veteran coaches and first time coaches alike.  All were nervous, excited, scared, and anxious.  There were tears of joy,  as well as tears of sadness that the season was soon to be over.

Each team starts their National Journey with an interview on the ESPN stage.  The teams are asked questions about their experience thus far at the event and questions about their routine.  Then, before exiting the stage, each team performs their favorite cheer.  From there,  on to Warm Up.  They have ten minutes to run through their routine on final time.  Here you will hear the superstitious coaches say “a bad warm up means a great performance.”  But many will say “This is the second best performance you will have, the best will be on the National floor.”

The longest , most nerve racking time...The “Shoot.”  After warm up, the teams are directed down the stairwell to the last hallway prior to turning the corner to performance time.  You see many things in this hallway:  tying and re-trying of shoes, a little more blush and lipstick, fixing of bows, and a triple check that no jewelry was left on.  There is much nervous energy in the air as each participant, and coach, anticipate the next ten minutes. 

A new Favorite this year….THE MOMENT ROOM.  Here each team has a private moment in a room to do whatever they would like.  Many have prayed.  All have done that “special  cheer”  to get them psyched up.  There are motivational speeches that result in happy tears for both cheerleaders and coaches, and of course, lots of words of wisdom for a great performance.

After their MOMENT, the team files out into the hallway for the last small leg of their journey.  Around the corner, down the red carpet and through MICKEY MOUSE’S lighted up ears is the NATIONAL FLOOR.  The team spirits on to the opening formation for the final performance of season.  Here, they “Leave it all on the floor.” 

The hopes are that each team has their best performance of the season, and that their best is enough for a trophy.  But regardless of ranking, each team is already a winner.  The struggles as a team they have overcome, the fundraising just to get here, and the simple fact they advanced to NATIONALS, makes each and every team a CHAMPION.

Today is Pee Wee. I am sure it will prove to be just as awesome as yesterday.
Delaney's Army

Pop Warner Spirit Promotions Team - Tuesday, December 9
My name is Alicia Boone....I'm a cheerleading coach for Cleveland Pop Warner in the Mid-South Region. I've been with Cleveland Pop Warner since 2011, but before that, I was with Blackstone Valley Pop Warner and before that, Ayer Shirley Pop Warner (both of Massachusetts). Pop Warner has been a constant in my life since I was 9 when I started cheering.

I've always been so passionate about coaching and being involved with pop warner. I've been the cheer director at multiple associations, coached multiple teams within a season, as well as recently the commissioner for Cleveland Pop Warner. I myself, never understood what it was about pop warner that I was so addicted to, until 3 weeks ago when tragedy struck my family.

I brought my 9 month old daughter, Delaney, to the doctors because she had what we thought was her very first cold. Up until that time, she had been the perfection of health! Never a cough, fever or even a sniffle! What we thought was her first cold, was so much more. After hours at the hospital, she had to be life flighted to a children's hospital. She had to be resuscitated several times that night and was ultimately put on a machine that ran her heart and lungs. When I arrived at the hospital after she was life flighted, there were already members of my "cheer family" there in the waiting room, and that support has only grown.

Delaney was diagnosed with Dialated Cardiomyophy (Big word meaning, the left ventricle of her heart is too big). The only "fix" for her diagnosis is a heart transplant. She will stay on a machine that will do the job of her heart until she is given the gift of a new heart. Delaney will stay in the Pediatric Caridac ICU until her gift arrives.

In the 3 weeks since Delaney was diagnosed, my cheer family has rallied behind her and my family! The cheerleaders and their families took on the role of "Delaneys Army"...they have been her warriors of prayer and encouragement. At the end of their practices, they huddle together and do "Delaneys Cheer"... "You got to want it for Delaney, and we want it bad...you got to hit it to win it, so just stand back, get it get it, got it got, Delaney's Army WHOOP WHOOP!".

Parents have visited, brought meals, gift cards, snacks, laundry detergent...you name it, they've thought of it! Cheerleaders have individually gone out and created their own fundraisers for Delaney (making christmas ornaments and selling them around their neighborhood, with all proceeds going to Delaney's medical care). After competing at Regionals, all the cheerleaders and their parents wore shirts that were made for her that read "Delaney's Army", with the proceeds again going to Delaney. After the 1st and 2nd place Regional wins from our cheer teams, Delaney was presented with their trophies, because "we did it for Delaney" said the coaches and cheerleaders! The support hasn't been limited to just the cheer side of CPW, it has come from ALL of pop warner...from Cleveland Pop Warner, to the Consolidated Football Federation all the way up to MidSouth Pop Warner!

So now, it is very clear to me why pop warner has always meant so much to me. Its more than cheer or football...its more than wins or loses. Its a family.

Pop Warner Spirit Promotions Team - Tuesday, December 9
Three very lucky young ladies had the opportunity of a lifetime!  Team Cheer held a Photo Shoot Sunday in hopes of capturing their next catalog front and back covers. 

The girls arrived at 7:00 am excited and ready to go. The full experience included hair and make-up, multiple uniform changes and many, many photos outside on the field.

Sisters, Natalie Muglia, 14, and Abby Muglia, 11, of the Jr. Midget Weddington Titans from the Mid-South Region were two of the models. "We have cheered together for a long time and think we were chosen because we are sisters. This is super cool!!"

Amanda Fastiggi, 15, of the Palm City Dolphins from the Southeast Region, agreed that the experience was amazing. "I have tried some modeling in the past, but it interfered with cheerleading. I chose cheer! I am so fortunate for this opportunity, and it was so much fun."

TEAM CHEER is a National Sponsor and tremendous supporter of Pop Warner. A Fashion Show is a daily occurrence at the National Event. A team from each region is selected to participate and "walk the catwalk" as well as, show off their posing skills.

TEAM CHEER also for the second year, provided exclusive Pop Warner Pink Apparel and accessories for the Pop Warner Pink Games in October. With each Pink Purchase, 10% is donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. This year, Team Cheer presented a check for $8,013.57 to the Breast Cancer Foundation in the name of Pop Warner.

Thank you TEAM CHEER!
Monday Jr. Cheer Reporter: Katie Buhai (San Diego, Ca.)

Pop Warner Spirit Promotions Team - Monday, December 8
The anticipation in the air this morning is tangible. It’s raining in the sunshine state. While the mood is far from gloomy, the overcast skies reflect the nervous energy inside the ESPN Wide World of Sports. It’s competition day for dozens of Pop Warner cheerleaders and their last chance to prove the title of National Champion belongs to them.

I had the opportunity to interview some cheerleaders, coaches, and parents with Laurie Hickson, Spirit Promotions of the Mid-South Pop Warner region. We were able to walk through the infamous tunnel every cheerleader dreams about. The tunnel each team anxiously waits in before their performance at the HP Field House. Coaches could be seen running about; fixing hair that had fallen in the untimely rain. Last minute reminders to smile, keep eye contact, point toes, and lock out legs were shouted down the tunnel.

The first team we spoke to was from southern California. The Murrieta Valley Sea Hawks are competing today in the Junior Pee Wee level one division. This is the team’s first time at Pop Warner Nationals. They are joined by two other teams from Murrieta Valley Pop Warner. That makes this year the first time in twenty-three years each cheer team competing for MVPW has advanced through sectionals, Palomar Conference, regionals, Wescon Region, and onto nationals. The head coach of these eight to ten year old girls believes they deserve, “the most improved award,” for how far they have come in the past four months as a team. The cross-country travel took a toll on the young girl’s bodies with jetlag. Fortunately, the trip was fundraised for to spare an even greater toll on their parent’s wallets. Events including raffles and touchdown cans were used along with money earned from cookie and scented candle sales supported their journey to nationals.

We were also able to talk with some parents from Freehold, New Jersey. Their daughters will be competing this morning in the Junior Pee Wee medium level one division. This will be the first time their children will compete at Pop Warner Nationals. They believe the girls are, “already winners,” and wish for them, “to have fun,” more than anything. While discussing where they could buy ponchos for an afternoon at the parks, the parents admitted they were far more nervous than their daughters, although they wouldn’t let them know that. This team seemed to have the whole community supporting them. Sweatshirts with the names of sponsors printed on the back were worn by each of the parents. Donations ranging from $25-$500 were given by dozens of local companies and families to help send this team to nationals.

We caught up with the family of a cheerleader who had just performed and were able to ask them a few questions. While we were speaking with them, the ecstatic coach ran by proclaiming how wonderfully they had competed. The Junior Pee Wee small level one Water-Oak Indians are from Connecticut. Brother of the cheerleader Brayden plays Mighty Might football for the same organization his older sister cheers for. He hopes to take his football team to ESPN Wide World of Sports for Pop Warner football nationals one day. It was Brayden’s first time flying on an airplane on his way to this competition with his family. He was confident his sister would come home with a trophy, but was more interested in getting to Magic Kingdom for a day at the parks. While his sister was looking forward to today, he was looking forward to the Pop Warner Party on Wednesday were a buffet of food and quick lines would be waiting for him.

This morning has been filled with the energy of champions. Every cheerleader, coach, and spectator exudes enthusiasm. Good luck to all the teams competing this week. It is such an accomplishment to make it to nationals; these teams have already proved themselves to be among the best of the best.
Sunday Jr. Cheer Reporter: Solveig (Sunny) Torgersen - Summary of Interviews

Pop Warner Spirit Promotions Team - Sunday, December 7
Revere Junior Patriots, JPW from Revere, Massachusetts
Head Coach: Gina

These girls have been working hard to get all the way to Florida they had to practice a lot and stay together as a team. When they finally qualified for Nationals they had to start fundraising, they did raffles, cash calendars and canning to get the money they needed.

Today the girls have had their practice and they are all set for the competition and of course for the all the parks. When we asked what they looked the most forward to they all answered Magic Kingdom and the roller coasters. Tonight they are going early to bed to be able to win Nationals tomorrow morning! I wish you the girls the best of luck!!

Murrieta Valley Seahawks, JPW 1 Small Division, From Murrieta Valley, California
Head Coach: Stephanie Snyder

Coach Snyder has been cheering with her mom as her coach, for Murrieta Valley for years. This year she could take her own team to Nationals, for the first time in 23 years, all three Murrieta Valley teams made it to Nationals. The girls I spoke to were so excited, for a lot of them this was their first year in Cheer.

And to get this far takes a lot of effort and team work. To get to Nationals you have to place 1st or 2nd in the local and regional competitions. The Seahawks had their local competition in San Diego October 26th. They competed against 6 other teams from Palomar Conference, and placed 2nd!
Only three weeks later they were ready for Wescon Regionals in Long Beach. At Regionals they beat 7 teams, and placed 2nd which qualified them for NATIONALS!!

The girls are just done with their practice, and they are now getting ready to go see some of their favorite Disney characters. For most of the girls this is their first time to Disneyworld, but they already know what parks they are going to, and they are of course going to see their favorite characters, with Tigger, Minni Mouse and Mickey as some of them. Best of luck to you girls!!

National City Diablos, JPW from San Diego, California
Head Coach: Cecilia De La Riva

All 22 of the girls are just done with their practice, ready to hit the pool, and experience Disneyworld. They have had a long journey to get here, as the other teams they also had to place 1st or 2nd at Locals and Regionals. To get to Florida from California they had to fly across the country, it is a long travel, and it took a lot of fundraising, and team work to get here. These girls have been having hustles at the Chargers games, selling raffle tickets, purses and getting sponsors. Luckily they made it, and they are here together with their Midget team. This is some of the girls’ first year of Cheering, and it is their first time at Nationals!

Outside practicing and competing they are going to see their favorite characters in real life, with favorites as Elsa, Anna, Daisy and Aladdin. Then they are looking forward to go see the Animal Kingdom, 7 Doors, and Expedition Everest! I wish you the best of luck competing tomorrow, you are going to do great!

Cleveland Rams, JPW 2 from Clayton, North Carolina
Head coach: Jennifer Robbins

The Cleveland Rams Cheer has been working hard on their pyramids this fall to get all the way to Florida. The team work and team spirit held up, and now they are here, ready to compete! They have been practicing really hard all fall, and they managed to place 1st at both their local and regional competitions. And they are planning on keeping up their streak at Nationals. Last year they won nationals in their division, and they really want to win again! For some of the girls this is their 4th year in a row (!) going to Nationals.

Going to Florida they fundraised by cheering outside stores and malls, they got local sponsors supporting them, and they sold a lot of raffle calendars. The team work has been wonderful, they have given the fundraising a lot of effort, and they are ready to fight!
Here in Disneyworld they hope to see Elsa, Olaf, Pluto and Mickey Mouse, and they cannot wait to get done with book check and practice to get out to the parks!

I wish you the best of luck girls, you guys rock!
Sunday Jr. Cheer Reporter: Solveig (Sunny) Torgersen - (Ulstienvik, Norway)

Pop Warner Spirit Promotions Team - Sunday, December 7
It was a pleasure working with Sunny today while she interviewed 4 teams for Pop Warner. Sunny was very excited to be a part of such a big organization. She was full of energy and ready with a smile. She enjoys shopping, hanging with friends but has a passion for coaching. Sunny is the oldest out of 4 kids, she has 2 sisters and 1 brother.

Sunny decided to become an exchange student early this year and after getting the news a few months later her planning began. On August 13th she was told that she has a host family in Escondido, California. Once she was given the word 3 days later she was boarding the plane and very excited. The awesome thing about it all is that her dad was also an exchange student 25 years ago. Over the years he has continued a relationship with his exchange family.

Sunny coaches an all-boy gymnastics team a team of 14 that range between the ages of 7-12. She says she really enjoy coaching the boys, they are a lot of fun. She had no idea she would be coaching a cheer team now.

The family that Sunny lives with is actively involved with Pop Warner, Escondido Organization. Frank and Mary Joungman introduced Sunny to the cheer world. Keep in mind she has never been a cheerleader and has only coached a team of boys in gymnastics. So, this was all new to her but yet she was very excited to be an asst. cheer coach with The Big Bad Wolves Cheer Team. She said with all the time she has put in with the team she now has a love for cheerleading and football.

It was truly nice working with Sunny today and I wish her the best of luck going forward. She is truly an awesome your lady with a bright future.

Thanks, Simone
'CHOPPED' Champion Shared Victory With Her Dying Father

Pop Warner Spirit Promotions Team - Saturday, December 6
The popular television cooking competition series “Chopped” recently aired a special edition featuring young chefs called “Short Order Cooks.” The episode featured the classic “Chopped” format of challenging chefs to create a series of dishes using mystery themed ingredients while facing stringent judging. After all others are eliminated (or “chopped”), one winner remains. A truly amazing story has come out of this.

The winner was an 11 year old named Lily Nichols. Lily is a member of the Cinnaminson Pirates Jr. Midget Cheer Team who will perform on Wednesday. She gained fame, experience and $10,000 as her reward for a meal well cooked. She beat out several other talented middle school-aged students, all of whom had great poise and possess culinary skills well beyond their years.

Nichols proved that she also has maturity and compassion that belie her barely double digit age.
When asked why she wanted to win, Lily explained that she did not want the money for herself. She wanted it to bring her father, Jeffrey Nichols, home. He had suffered a traumatic brain injury the year prior, after falling from a ladder on September 29, 2013. Things were touch and go and his future was uncertain.

Lily demonstrated incredible tenacity to commit to something like this at an early age. To find and pursue a path like cooking takes drive and passion, even for a full grown adult. For Lily to apply this kind of zeal and not only pursue a dream, but propel herself comfortably onto a public stage, took great confidence and commitment.
This is made all the more powerful by the fact that she was pursuing this goal while her father sat in a hospital fighting for his life. Lily, at only 11 years old, recognized that she could do nothing for her father by sitting around and feeling sorry, or moping about his pain. She tried to provide support and make him proud by pursuing her dream and being her best.

Sadly, Lily’s father passed just three days after the show was taped.

While a parent passing is inevitably one of the most difficult things anyone can ever experience, it surely made for an even more confusing and emotional period for Lily as one of the most exciting moments in her life was so quickly followed by one so tragic.

We cannot control, nor can we predict tragic occurrences in life. No matter how hard we work, how good we are and how safely we play things, life sometimes simply throws us a curve. Lily provides a great example of how to not let our dreams get sidetracked by things we cannot change. What her father surely wanted for her was to push forward and not wallow in his accident. She could not change what happened but she could give him some comfort by showing him that she could be strong and successful. Lily left her father with as powerful a gift as she could: to see her accomplish a dream.

Since the win, Lily has been awarded a Proclamation from the Town of Cinnaminson. She asked the Mayor - Anthony Minnitti declare March 2015 and March 12, 2015 Traumatic Brain Injury Awareness Month and Day in Cinnaminson Township. Her request was granted. Lily did a Meet and Greet at a local pub to fundraise and raise awareness for Traumatic Brain Injury. She raised over $2000.00 and the funds will be donated to Capital Health Neuro Science Department for further research and hopes for a cure in Traumatic Brain Injury. Lily was awarded and honored at the Middle School's Board of Education Meeting. Lily is her father's voice now and continues to fundraise and raise awareness for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Lily someday hopes to start a foundation in South Jersey for Traumatic Brain Injury.

She is Small but Mighty!!
Good Morning Pop Warner Cheer and Dance Fans!!!

Pop Warner Spirit Promotions Team - Saturday, December 6
Welcome to the 2014 Cheer and Dance Championships!  Hard to believe yet another year has passed.  We have quite the line up for you this year with many new additions. 

The National Staff and many volunteers are hard at work getting ready for the Mitey Mites this afternoon.  New this year…Tiny Mite exhibition.  The mats are down, the backdrops hung, the lighting tested, and the trophy’s and medals are in place.  Football and cheer teams from across the country are arriving to ESPN Wide World of Sports bright eyed with huge smiles, glowing in the excitement of what this event represents.  A true National Event.  Each and every team has had to qualify at their local competitions, then again at their regional competitions, for the opportunity to participate at the Pop Warner Cheer and Dance Championships.

Throughout the week, I will share many stories with you including the trials and tribulations of just making it through the season, to heartwarming human interest stories.  We will give you parent’s perspectives, coach’s perspectives, as well as the participants perspective.  When you purchase a live broadcast you will be able to view live interviews with the teams prior to their performance, and post performance interviews with some coaching staffs.

Another new item this year….PARENT VIEWING from the floor level directly in front of the performance floor!!!!  Also the coaches for the first time will get to watch their teams from the front instead of the side.  For those of you who have coached Pop Warner Cheer and Dance, you realize how awesome this is for the coaching staff.

The PW Level 4 teams will again be broadcast on ESPN3 Thursday evening with the champions from the Dance Divisions.  Each year the event keeps growing and evolving.  Providing a magical experience for all.

Tune in this afternoon for an incredible story you won’t want to miss!!
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