From the energetic Blue Key Heads to dance groups like SLAM, Andover has always found dynamic ways of invigorating the crowds. This year, Irene Ledo ’24 wants to provide a fresh take on school spirit. As the founder of Big Blue Cheer, she and her team debuted at the pep rally before the Fall term’s Andover/Exeter Weekend in an effort to bring cheerleading into the community.
According to Ledo, while the process of creating a new club was difficult, she believed the team’s progress so far has been a result of strong marketing strategies and establishing positive relationships with the rest of the community.
“I wanted to start [Big Blue Cheer] because it felt like we had so many untapped resources that could be pushed towards enhancing our school spirit…. Initially, the club rally helped get my club started but it was also important… to talk to people in person. I feel that when you make a personal connection with someone, it’s way better and easier to have them put a face behind the club, so I think that word-of-mouth has really helped my club succeed,” said Ledo.
In making good use of their resources, Big Blue Cheer invited Belinda Wolf, a former New England Patriots cheerleader and Andover’s diving coach, to help train the team. As a long-time faculty member at Andover, Wolf commented on how she always wanted to help establish a cheer team, which is why she found Ledo’s club to be a great opportunity.
“I opened up an email from Irene asking me if I would be interested and telling me the mission statement. She also approached Mr. Capano about this idea, and I was so flattered when he asked her to reach out to me… I would be able to pass on the greatness and my knowledge of cheerleading to the kids. I’m so excited about this. It feels like a dream to me,” said Wolf.
In planning for their first performance, Big Blue Cheer had held practices in the Borden’s Ballet Studio. Transitioning to the much larger gym for the pep rally was a challenge—it required the cheerleaders to adjust to the different acoustics and size. There was also an additional concern of whether or not the team was going to perform at all. However, club member Natalie Murphy ’24 believed that these and other challenges helped the team grow and come together.
“It was challenging to perform at the pep rally because we only practiced in Borden once or twice [beforehand]…The spacing and volume was completely [unknown to us]…. [However], we had a lot of good practices and team spirit right before and it felt like a sports team getting ready for a big game, it was fun,”said Murphy.
Looking forward, the cheer team has set goals and clear boundaries for themselves to continue performing at the pep rallies and possibly performing at Grasshopper next year. They also aim to make Big Blue Cheer a sport, so that everyone can try out for it and so it can be taken more seriously. In addition to the expansion of the club, Wolf expressed her hopes for development in the club’s gender diversity as well as better addressing the overlap that they have with existing teams.
“I want Andover Cheer to be a team where all genders can cheer. Cheering has usually been exclusive for girls. But it makes me happy to see boys cheering in high school, college, and even NFL cheer teams. Apart from that, I want it to be known that in no way, shape, or form will our team interfere with the great performances of the school’s Blue Key Heads or SLAM. I will let someone in my team be constantly in touch with the Blue Key Heads because we want to add to their blue spirit, not take it away from them,” said Wolf.