My Turn, Amanda Przybyszewski: Cheers for North Rowan cheerleaders

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 21, 2021

By Amanda Przybyszewski

On Dec. 2, I volunteered to work the concession stand while my son and the junior varsity Raider boys hosted basketball at South Rowan.

After the game, we stayed to watch the first half of the varsity girls game. Once the warm up clock ran out, the North Rowan cheerleaders, about 15 girls, came onto the court. They formed in two lines in front of their team when the call to stand for our national anthem was made. I observed most people in the stands rise to their feet, begin removing their hats and place their right hands over their hearts. My eyes trailed onto the court to see the North cheerleaders standing in a very casual manner and I began lamenting to myself the old saying “kids these days have no respect.” I thought to myself, “This must be how they do it up at North Rowan, those girls should know to drop the pom-poms and put a hand over their heart” and other such negativity towards these young ladies.

Imagine my chagrin when the opening chords of the prerecorded national anthem slowly, quietly began to sound over the South speakers. Every single one of those ladies sprung to immediate action. There was a very audible swooshing of pom-poms as their left hands in almost perfect unison went behind their backs and all right hands snapped over their hearts. A military brat myself, I have seen honor guards that could have learned a thing or two from these teenagers. Each and every North Rowan cheerleader stayed in a ramrod-straight formation throughout our country’s national anthem. The stillness and reverence in which they stood at attention during the familiar song brought tears to this longtime southern Rowan resident’s eyes, and I was immediately filled with remorse for my unkind first thoughts.

After the anthem finished, as anticipated, the cheerleaders welcomed their five starters to the court.

I was further staggered when the whole North cheerleader squad remained on the court when the South Rowan names were called. Those North cheerleaders stood, cheered and shook pom-poms with no less enthusiasm than they showed for their own teammates as each of the five Raider names called. I was again stunned and humbled to realize how poorly my original judgement of them was and recalled another familiar saying, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

I had the opportunity to watch these 15 girls for two exciting periods of ladies varsity basketball. The North cheerleaders worked in perfect unison — stomping their feet, clapping hands and cheering in booming, authoritative voices to encourage their team. The six Raider cheerleaders were accompanied by part of the marching band in the opposite stands, but alas they did not shake the South gym as much those girls from North Rowan. It’s amazing what you can do with 15 pairs of feet stomping in unity!

When the half-time buzzer sounded with North in a comfortable lead, I made my way across the gym. A few girls noticed my approach decked out in red and black and all eyes quickly turned to me. I asked who the captain was and who made the decision what cheers would be used. After a moment of silence (perhaps the girls were forming their own opinions on why I was there), one cheerleader bravely spoke up and said, “We all do. We all direct this team.” I smiled and offered them sincere praise. They all broke out in smiles and thanked me for thanking them!

I left the gym mired in my thoughts.

It made me think of the bigger picture of our county, political lines and nation ultimately. Just as there are pockets of extreme loyalty in Rowan County, aren’t we really all part of the same county repping school sports in our great state of North Carolina? Like the North cheerleaders modeled, I believe we should shower praise over all our neighbors, even our opponents.

And let’s not sugarcoat it, there are obvious demographic differences in the North Rowan area compared to South. While one school might be assumed to support one thing or another, shouldn’t both be praised for standing up for what they believe in? Just as my initial judgement of those girls on the court turned out to be wrong, isn’t possible, probable even, that we all might be mistaken in our first impressions sometimes?

I sure felt curiosity and defensiveness radiate from the green and white side when I directly approached them in my attempt to offer commendation. It was a good time for this country gal to remember a final old saying, “Judge not, lest ye be judged yourself.”

Amanda Przybyszewski lives in southern Rowan County.