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Rugby cheerleaders return from Hawaii

By Staff | Jul 22, 2016

Elizabeth Skjelver, Aimee York, Coach Ashley Stricker and Hannah Hoffert pose for a photo while at camp in Hawaii.

Hannah Hoffert, Aimee York and Elizabeth Skjelver have returned to Rugby after spending June 22-29 at CheerHawaiiUSA, a national college preparatory cheer camp held at the University of Hawaii.

The camp saw 122 girls and one boy, who learned skills in cheering, stunting, dancing and leadership. Penn State’s Head Cheer Coach Curtis White, along with other coaches, intensively trained the cheerleaders during the week.

The week consisted of mostly half-day training, with Saturday being the only full day of training and Sunday being a free day.

“On Sundays there, you don’t work,” Hoffert said.

Rugby High School Cheer Coach Ashley Stricker added: “The camp is deeply rooted in the Polynesian culture.”

Stricker went along with the girls as one of the nine coaches for the camp.

“It was interesting to see how other teams are ran,” she said, excited to use some of the skills she learned for the upcoming season with her own team.

Mornings were spent in workouts, where cheerleaders were separated into teams to learn routines, cheers, dances and stunts.

In the afternoons, the cheerleaders were allowed free time for exploration and also attended various pre-planned Hawaiian activities that taught them about the culture.

Some of these activities included a Hawaiian barbeque on North Shore Beach, canoe paddling, hula dancing lessons, a luau, a trolley ride and paddle boarding and trips to the Pearl Harbor Memorial, the Polynesian Cultural Center, the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet, Waikiki and the filming sites of Hawaii Five-0, Soul Surfer, Jurassic Park and Lost. They also attended “Breath of Life,” a show that captured the spirit of Hawaiian life and culture.

In the evenings, cheerleaders attended leadership classroom sessions that allowed for them to ask the coaches questions and learn more about cheering in college.

The camp is family-run, with support staff made up of family and close friends.

“I liked the family-based aspect of it,” Hoffert said. “They’re legit family cheering you on. It was crazy how much they made us feel like we were at home.”

Some of the memories the girls shared of their days at the camp were of eating French fries in the University of Hawaii’s cafeteria; eating so much pineapple that Hoffert’s tongue swelled; having to swipe for entry into buildings, stairwells and elevators on campus; and York breaking open a coconut.

The girls gained the most, however, in the workouts and lessons that the camp provided.

“I liked the co-ed stunting a lot,” York said, who received the opportunity to work separately with some of the coaches to learn how to do stunts with male cheerleaders something she wants to pursue in college.

“I think Aimee is the one who grew the most,” Stricker said. “She learned to self-advocate, which is so important for cheer, school and life.”

York, an upcoming junior at RHS, said she is usually nervous when it comes to meeting new people, but she felt comfortable and supported at the camp. “They eliminated that ‘Someone is better than someone else’ mentality, and I liked that,” she said. “Every day was better than the last.”

“I think the whole experience was really beneficial for the girls,” Stricker said. “Hopefully this is something that our school will be able to do again.” Sticker already has girls in mind that she wants to nominate to attend the camp next year, including York, who will be going into her senior year at that time.

The girls were separated onto different teams for the week, and Hoffert said that she enjoyed watching York and Skjelver from a distance.

“It was nice to watch them grow,” she said. “We got to watch each other, but we were on different teams. We learned how to fend for ourselves and find our own voices.”

Although the camp was separated into teams, competition was not a focus. In a familial atmosphere, the girls were supported and cheered on each day. There was a showcase at the end of camp where each team was able to perform a routine that was learned.

“It wasn’t a competition,” York said. “We were like one big teamit didn’t make you feel badly about not being able to do something that someone else could.”

Hoffert added: “It was crazy how much we had each other’s backs.”

The girls and Stricker, as their coach, have plans to implement some of the things they learned at camp into routines for their home-team, such as dances, chants and theme nights.

One of the things the girls learned at camp and want to bring back to Rugby is chant-style cheering, which allows for more audience interaction.

“The entire thing was incredibly positive for the girls,” Stricker said. “It reignited their passion for cheer.”

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