Two, four, six, eight… thousand dollars a year?

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The Granville varsity football cheer squad poses before their game against Johnstown. (Photo courtesy of Maria Law)

Andrew Hoben

Sky-high cheerleading expenses impact district, participants alike

Cheerleading is one of the only school sports that spans multiple seasons, as many of the same cheerleaders could potentially be a member of the football, basketball, and competition cheer squads. Cheer is and has been a pinnacle of the high school sports experience for decades, yet there are unique responsibilities placed on the cheer squad to not only support their teams with their spirit on the sidelines, but also financially through gifts, signs, and team expenses that they pay for themselves. 

Outside of the competition team, which performs routines against other squads at meets and is graded on aspects such as tumbling, stunts, and formations, the football and basketball cheer squads do not focus on competing against an opponent. Instead, they practice cheers and routines that are meant to inject energy into the crowd and players from the sidelines, and then perform tumbling and cheer routines that entertain the crowd during breaks in the action. However, they are also expected to support the teams that they are associated with off the field as well. This oftentimes requires many out-of-pocket expenses and a large focus on cheer-specific fundraisers to earn money that goes towards supplies, uniforms, non-school travel expenses, and more. 

“For each season, cheerleaders will be responsible for two to three player goodie bags, and sometimes more than that,” senior cheerleader Morgan Roof explained. “We end up paying for goodie bags at least five games each season out-of-pocket, so it exceeds $100 dollars, plus the materials for signs.”

These extra costs for goodie bags and signs are expected to be paid by the cheerleaders and their families. While the district pays for many general expenses associated with cheer including transportation, coaches salaries, and some equipment, anything past that is out of the school’s hands. 

“We (the athletic department) are covering uniforms next year because you need them to compete, “ Granville athletic director Josh DeVoll said, “but anything above and beyond that like camps, goodie bags, locker signs, that is handled by their designated booster account.”

While Granville’s administration has taken measures to limit costs for many of their sports, it is typical for cheerleading costs to go into the thousands of dollars if selected for the competition team. These kinds of costs are typical not just in Ohio, but around the country. According to the Monroe News Star, Neville High School in Louisiana has a policy that if a cheerleader makes the squad, she must sell additional advertising and participate in other fundraisers to reduce the upwards of $2,200-$2,500 in costs associated with cheering. Among those costs are uniforms, camp, clothes for camp, megaphone, traditional pom poms and coaching.

“The expenses add up,” senior Maria Law said. “Cheer camp is $300, camp wear is $200, and then competition camp is another $200 dollars, and we also have to buy competition shoes.”

All told, the costs of being a full-time cheerleader can pile up quickly. 

“I would say that a cheerleader spends over $1,000 in out of pocket expenses a year, and even more if you are on the competition team,” Law said. 

Out-of-pocket and booster-backed purchases outside of the mandatory requirements for cheer are oftentimes what prove to be the most costly. 

“We do have it in our handbook that you’re only allowed to charge a certain amount for your sport as a player fee, it is around $125,” DeVoll said, “but there is an option if parents approve if coaches want to charge more.”

Senior cheerleaders Abigail Burkholder, Morgan Roof, Madie Menz and Maria Law pose on senior night. (Photo courtesy of Maria Law)

Granville cheerleaders spend days of their time throughout the year to raise money for the team to offset these high costs. 

“For football season, we have the annual ‘Princess Party’ and the Granville Recreation Cheer Camp as fundraisers,” Roof said. “They each attract a ton of girls and are very successful.”

However, even the fundraisers require out-of-pocket expenses and extra efforts from cheer families to make them possible. 

“A lot of outside help from cheer moms are required for the registration stations, and they also help bring food and drinks for them, which is another big expense,” Roof said. 

The fees for the competition team, potentially the third school team that any given cheerleader could be a part of in a single school year, make being a year-around cheerleader financially taxing. According to OmniCheer, “for competitive teams, there are additional gym fees (anywhere between $1500 to $5000 a year), competition fees, travel costs, additional uniforms, choreography, coaching, and private training fees.” While many competition teams are not necessarily backed by school districts, since the OHSAA (Ohio High School Athletic Association) does not include competition cheer, the sport relies on another, different organization (the OASSA) to regulate the events that Granville is a part of within the state. Granville schools, however, holds the competition team under the district funding “umbrella” to be able to support them as a school-sponsored team. 

“Competition is not a OHSAA regulated sport, so the regulation stops here in the district,” DeVoll said. 

One feature of being a member of the competition cheerleading team that many Granville cheerleaders have experienced in the last 10 years has been participating in their “national” competition, which takes place in Florida. However, this season, despite qualifying for nationals, the cheer team will not be making the trip due to insufficient funds. While the option for each cheerleader to pay for the trip out-of-pocket was discussed, the team ultimately decided that the expense was too great. 

“The parents of the cheerleaders voted to not go to Florida this year because one year isn’t enough time to raise enough money for every girl,” Black explained, “and our families would have had to pay for the remaining expenses that our fundraising didn’t cover.”

“In the past we have raised enough money to cover the entire trip, the girls just brought money for food,” head cheer coach Julie Hardesty explained.

The cheerleaders had to accept the fact that though they earned a spot in the competition, they would have to pass on the opportunity. 

“Everyone was upset when we found out that we wouldn’t be going to nationals, but we understood why,” Law said. “Some people were leaning towards paying the expenses individually, which was almost a thousand dollars.”

With all things considered, cheerleading on a high school team is expensive. This is not a fact that is exclusive to Granville, but nonetheless impacts everyone involved, whether it be the cheerleaders or the school district itself.

“When the competition team enters into events, there are entry fees, which is very significant,” DeVoll said. “You’re looking at seven to eight thousand dollars a year just to fill their competition schedule, which the district pays.”

“My parents and I have talked a lot about how high the cost is for the high school cheer team, and that it is almost outlandish,” Black said. 

“Cheerleading in high school is a fun hobby, and even though competition cheer is more serious it is still just a high school sport,” Law said.

“Most children aren’t an only child, so parents having to stress about expenses for one sport is unfair, and can lead to their siblings not having as many opportunities.”

Roof believes that though cheerleading is ultimately worth it, the magnitude of costs for each season is a key factor in the experience. 

“Overall, it’s a nice thing to do for the guys to make signs and give them bags, and being on the team is awesome, but it gets out of hand at times,” Roof said.

“It’s just a really large expense that some people neglect to realize.