Something to cheer about

Kathleen Cook, Editor-in-Chief

Many have aspirations to play sports in college, and for senior Justin Yarletts, this dream might become a reality.
Yarletts has the opportunity to be a cheerleader for Clemson this fall.
“I’ll have to go down for tryouts in April, and they’ll let me know in a month or two after that,” Yarletts said. “If I make the team, I’ll go down a week before school starts and train with them.”
The interest of cheering in college peaked with advice from his coaches, who also cheered while they were in college.
“I talked to a couple of my coaches who danced before they went to college, who cheered for the first time in college, and they said it was one of the funnest decisions they’d made in their life.  You get to travel around to all the bowl games,” Yarletts said.
Everyone starts somewhere. Yarletts interest for cheerleading sprouted about a year ago from wanting to do a back flip while wakeboarding.
“I really did it for wakeboarding. I figured if I could do a flip on the ground, I could do a flip in the air. Also, my sister was a cheerleader, so I got into it that way,” Yarletts said. “I definitely regret not starting earlier because I know I can be a lot better.  At 18 you get cut off from a lot of teams and you’re restricted to the levels you can be in.  Going to college will help me progress to the level I want to be at.
But he didn’t stop at learning how to do flips.  With the help of Alex Powell and Lloyd Tolson at Young’s Gym and others at Tri-Athletics, Yarletts was able to take cheerleading to the next level.
“They helped and supported me through all the obstacles I had and made it possible for me to be where I am in just over a year,” Yarletts said.
Powell was impressed by Yarletts’ motivation and devotion to getting better.
“Justin had to work hard to get where he is, but he was determined to do it.  It took a lot of time working one on one and in a group setting and even individually, but that is what it takes,” Powell said.  “Justin works very hard.  He is very self motivated.  He is always picking my brain about how to change or fix his tumbling and to better his technique. He just wants to be the best he can be, and he puts in the extra time to make sure he continues to get better.”
Tolson also took note of the dedication that Yarletts has to be a cheerleader.
“Justin has a great attitude and strong work ethic.  He takes instruction well and constantly challenges himself to be better,” Tolson said.
Another challenge for Yarletts is his gender.  There are numerous stereotypes regarding cheerleaders that he has to face.
“People are going to say what they want, and you have to know that it’s not true,” Yarletts said.
Powell and Tolson both believe that being a male cheerleader can open more doors as opposed to being a female cheerleader.
“Most college programs that have male cheerleaders are always looking for more guys. Justin has the tumbling to be a college cheerleader now. He would have to work on his partner stunting, but many college programs would take guys with less experience than Justin,” Powell said.
“I’ve noticed over the years that guys generally have an advantage of getting skills quicker,” Tolson said.
To any boys that are thinking about pursuing cheerleading, Yarletts has some advice.
“It’s hard. It’s not like any sport I’ve done before: I’ve played basketball, hockey and soccer. It really takes a lot of time, more time than anything I’ve done before. It just takes a lot of time and dedication,” Yarletts said.
Though Yarletts has had a late start to cheerleading, his coaches have high hopes for his future. For Tolson, it’s that his learning progresses, while considering safety.
“I hope that he continues on this path of improvement while retaining a high regard for safety and proper execution of skills,” Tolson said.
Yarletts said, “With cheerleading, there is an indefinite end that you’re pushing towards. I like to live by the quote ‘success is not determined by where you start, but where you end.’”