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March 19, 2013

Jim Bailey: Youngest granddaughter is a cheerleader in the making

“We’ve got spirit, yes we do. We’ve got spirit, how about YOU???”

Gracie, 5, really gets into the spirit of things as she points an accusing finger during the cheerleading routine at Upward Basketball in Greenfield on Saturday mornings. Our youngest granddaughter attended her first cheerleader camp a couple of years ago and has really gotten into the spirit of things.

Gracie is an extremely active youngster, and her mom, Ruth, has been looking for an outlet for her energy since she was a toddler. Soccer didn’t work; she does her own thing, which isn’t conducive to a team sport. It looks as though her cousin Cameron, our next youngest, will be the soccer star in the family. And while she loves gymnastics, she also likes to do her own thing there as well. But she channels it all into cheerleading, where her exuberance and effervescence really shines.

The players and cheerleaders are all introduced with a flair at Upward, held at Greenfield’s Park Chapel Christian Church (there are similar programs across the country, including Anderson; grandson Jason is in Upward basketball in Zionsville). Gracie is one of two 5-year-olds on the squad. As the girl right ahead of Gracie ran out, she did a two-handed flip. Could Gracie top that? Sure, with a one-handed cartwheel, which Ruth says she developed totally on her own.

The Upward cheerleaders stand on the stage end of the double court and give out cheers whenever the action moves to the other end. At the “substitution breaks” (there are six periods in Upward Basketball, and everybody plays) the cheerleaders run onto the court for another cheer.

Ruth was drafted to be one of the assistant coaches, no mean feat since she was not a cheerleader during her school days. To make matters even more complicated, she was on crutches most of the season following foot surgery in midwinter. Makes it hard to demonstrate new cheers, for certain.

Each cheerleader has her own little megaphone. Gracie rarely yells through hers. She doesn’t need to. She belts out the cheers for all to hear, and her gestures, hops and kicks are as emphatic as any high school cheerleader.

There is a function for her megaphone: a place to paste all the stars she receives at the end of each game. Of course, in Upward, every kid gets weekly awards just for being part of the program.

When Gracie’s game was through, we headed for the indoor venue where 10-year-old Ronnie was practicing baseball. He’s rounding into a complete player with newfound agility, thanks in part to workout sessions at Throwback Athletics in Anderson.

A week later it was off to Zionsville. Jason is becoming a pretty good ballhandler. Another week and LeeAnn swam in divisional competition.

Our grandkids’ love for activity is refreshing given the firestorm of controversy surrounding the notoriety of couch potatoes. Go get ’em Gracie, Ronnie, Cameron, Jason and LeeAnn!

Jim Bailey’s column appears on Wednesday. He can be reached by email at jameshenrybailey@earthlink.net.

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