"Three-five-seven-nine! Whose kid wants to cheer lead? Mine!" At the ripe old age of 7, my born-and-bred New York City daughter has settled on her career of choice: cheerleader. She even dressed as one for Halloween. Initially I told her, "Sorry sweetie, I don't think there are any cheerleading programs in NYC. It's mostly a suburban sport." But then I did the research. Turns out there are some NYC cheerleading programs open to kids from all five boroughs (not just students in specific schools). Who knew?
Before you balk, keep in mind that cheerleading is actually a challenging physical activity and offers similar benefits as gymnastics. Participants strengthen their muscles, improve their coordination and flexibility and learn to work as a team. It's not all chanting and pom-poms.
So if you also have an aspiring cheerleader on your hands, here are six NYC programs where she can work on her thigh stands, steppers and cupies.
Gladiator Sports – Harlem
Salvation Army, 540 Lenox Avenue near 137th Street
Though primarily a basketball and academic program, Gladiator also has a girls cheerleading team, the Gladiator Bratz, which promotes teamwork, motivation, courage, determination, commitment and respect. Participants are placed in groups organized by age.
Brooklyn Titans – Brooklyn
Various locations. Visit the website for info.
This organization's six football divisions are complemented by five cheerleading divisions, from Tiny Mites (age 6 and under) to Varsity (ages 14 and under). Practices start in January for a season that runs March through December. The registration fee covers uniform and pom-pom rental, a practice uniform, transportation, insurance and more. No try-outs are required.
Jamaica Bulldogs Cheerleading – Jamaica
Liberty Park, 173rd Street and Liberty Avenue
Here the football players are known as the Bulldogs, so the cheerleaders are (what else?) the Lady Bulldogs. Girls ages 6 to 13 are welcome to join this organization, which emphasizes discipline, teamwork, self-esteem, self-control and personal responsibility. All staff members are volunteers from the local community who take on the dual roles of coaches and mentors.
Staten Island Elite Cheer – Staten Island
Victory Gymnastics Center, 3575 Victory Boulevard
The first all-star team formed in the borough, the Gems don't fool around. Participants work out in a facility with 21-foot-high ceilings, trampolines, tumble tracks, twisting belts and spotting rigs. Classes begin at the elementary school level and go all the way up to the top-ranked, 17-plus team. Many of the senior girls who grew up in the program now coach the little ones.
Bronx Giants Youth Football and Cheer – the Bronx
Evander Childs Educational Complex, 800 East Gun Hill Road near Bronxwood Avenue
This nonprofit organization accepts children ages 6 to 14. Cheerleaders practice two to three days a week and also do gymnastics training at Uptown Sports Complex in Kingsbridge. Registration goes toward uniforms, pom-poms, transportation and team insurance.
Harlem Jets – Harlem
LaGuardia House, 307 East 116th Street
The sister organization to the popular Harlem football club sponsors cheerleading for girls ages 5-17. The team competes at local and national competitions and is broken down into categories by age group.
You'll find more cheerleading programs in the NYC area in the United States Cheer & Dance Directory.
Read out about other athletic programs for NYC kids in our Classes Guide.
This post originally published in March 2014.