Team Goals | Suffolk County News
Under the tutelage of Coach Victoria Herrmann, a Sayville High School alumna, the Sayville Middle School Cheerleading Squad has won impressive titles in its three annual competitions.
To know: first place in their local competition; third in their second competition; and sixth place among Long Island’s top 10 teams.
“We’re leaders first, athletes second,” said Herrmann, who likes to remind her team that in fact, she didn’t make her college team.
“I didn’t go back to cheerleading until 11th grade after that, but then I cheered all the way through grad school,” Herrmann said.
Middle school, a pivotal period in an athlete’s journey, is marked by growth but also by the perfection of a specific path.
The current team includes those who started cheerleading as young as 4 years old, those with a background in dance or gymnastics, and finally athletes who transitioned into cheerleading from other sports.
“Safety is my main concern,” Herrmann said.
The college team works with Long Island Cheer twice a week for 90 minutes at a time to develop advanced tumbling and stunting skills, with access to full competition flooring.
According to Herrmann, almost 95% of his students have never competed in cheerleading events, which makes their victories all the more accomplished.
“Many people view cheerleading as a spectacle sport, and it was only recently recognized as an official sport by the [New York State Public] High School Athletic Association,” Herrmann said.
The secondary aspect of cheerleading—the pinnacle of high school memories with cheerleaders singing while the football team plays—often overshadows the serious part of the competition.
“When we’re cheerleading on the sidelines, we don’t have mats, so you can’t see all the display of athleticism that our team is capable of,” Herrmann said.
Dance and gymnastics backgrounds are particularly helpful for cheerleading success, with routines broken down into eight beats, flexibility training, and acrobatic/tumbling skills.
Herrmann has served as coach of the college’s cheerleading team for five years.
Although she was a teacher at Sachem Elementary School, where she originally thought she would be a cheerleading coach, Herrman received a call that her hometown was looking for someone to fill the role. and was thrilled to give back to her community.
“The more known cheerleading is, the more supportive the community is,” Herrmann said.
When it came home this fall, on a day Herrmann describes as “my favorite day of the year,” more than 150 district cheerleaders were in attendance for the game.
The popularity of the Netflix limited series “Cheer,” which focuses on the athleticism of competitive cheerleading, is something Herrmann attributes to the recent burst of enthusiasm for the sport.
“It really put the training and power of cheerleading athletes on the map for those who maybe only think about the secondary aspect,” Herrmann said.
Another important Herrmann leadership principle is to cultivate a true team mentality within the team and to eliminate “mean girl” behavior, characterized by on-screen depictions of cheerleaders.
“I’m not what a typical cheerleader looks like,” Herrmann said, “and I want to be a role model so athletes in this sport don’t have to conform to a specific body type.”
Speaking about his current team in college, Herrmann said, “I’m blessed to have such a sincerely close team that cares so much for each other. And I can serve with brotherly counsel, because not so long ago I was in their place.