A lot has changed since Angie Gable became the Dallastown varsity football and wrestling cheerleading coach.
Back in the late summer of 1993, there were no state, district or even league competitions. A lot of the focus was on the cheers themselves, and it was extremely rare to see a heavily choreographed dance routine.
In a sense, the sport/activity wasn't really competitive. Now, of course, that has all changed.
In addition to the normal three-sport (football, wrestling, basketball) cheerleading squads, there is now a competitive spirit team that competes locally, regionally and even nationally.
Through the years, Gable has been a pioneer for cheerleading. A former cheerleader herself at both Dallastown and later at Millersville University, Gable has led the cheerleading program for the past two decades. Her teams have always been fairly successful, although she's dubbed the program the "queens of second place" for their numerous runner-up finishes behind New Oxford, which won this year's PIAA medium class team title.
While cheerleading is gaining more attention as a competitive sport thanks to movies such as "Bring It On" and others, Gable has also steered her girls toward more noble goals. Her teams have regularly volunteered to work for charitable causes.
For her contributions to the sport over the past 20 years as a coach, Gable was recently honored with the GTM Sportswear Competitive Spirit Coaches Award by the PIAA. Gable accepted her award back on Feb. 2 in Hershey at the first-ever PIAA Competitive Spirit State Championships.
We caught up with Gable in this week's edition of the Sports Q&A.
When did you find out that Dallastown athletic director Tory Harvey nominated you for the award?
"Well, he was asking me quite a few questions by email. He said that he was submitting my name for something, but I wasn't really sure what it was until I actually got the phone call about it."
What was your reac tion when you found out that you had won?
"I was surprised. It was certainly a good honor. I'm not a huge spotlight kind of person so I'd much rather talk about the girls than myself. But it was very exciting. I mean you put a lot of time into it and it's nice that there's an award for something like that."
This was the first award of its kind ever given out, correct?
"Yeah. This was also the first year that the PIAA recognized competition cheerleading as a sport, so it was the first states as well."
What aspects of cheerleading are most casual observers not aware of?
"For the actual cheerleading portion of it, there's a lot of hard work and there's a lot athleticism required to do all the splits and all the gymnastics that are in there. There's always this question of whether or not it's a sport, but these girls are definitely athletes."
What other things are the cheerleaders involved with, outside of just football/ wrestling/basketball?
"They do a lot of stuff for the community. They give up study halls to paint signs, to organize pep rallies, or doing things in the community. It's not that we always organize everything, but the girls are always very willing to help. So we've teamed up with our volleyball team to raise money for breast cancer awareness and we've paired up with our school volunteer club to send packages to the troops. So they're athletes, but they also have to be ambassadors for the community."
When you started coaching there was no York-Adams League Championships. I read that you were respon sible for helping to start them. How did that come about?
"Well, it wasn't just me by any means. I know there was talk about it for many years before to try to get the teams to come together. Our principal at the time, Dr. (George) Jones, was a big advocate of trying to get something like this going. So he had asked and I went with him to a (league) meeting where we talked about this. Now there were other coaches that were involved as well, but I served on a committee trying to put this together. And it's been 10 years now and it's fun. Because it's local -- it's just our teams -- we have a lot of football players and wrestlers that come out to support the girls and kind of be there for them. So it's a nice little community event that we've had."
How is a competitive cheerleading champi onship scored?
"Each team is based on how many girls are on your team. So we generally compete in the large varsity division because we have so many girls. Every team gets 21/2 minutes and basically during that 21/2 minutes you can use music, chairs, tumbling and you kind of have to show everything that you have. There's a score sheet and judges are there and they judge it based on difficulty and based on execution and how well they did everything."
So it's a lot like the movies ("Bring It On") that you see?
"Sort of. "Bring It On" is ... well ... sort of the general idea. It's Hollywood, but that's the basic concept in a 21/2-minute routine that you put together."
When did you per sonally get involved in cheerleading?
"I cheered for Dallastown then I cheered at Millersville. I cheered for football and for basketball. When I graduated from college I came back and started coaching at the age of 21 and I've been doing it now for 20 years. I now coach the football cheerleaders, the wrestling cheerleaders and the competition cheerleaders."
How has cheerlead ing evolved since you started coaching?
"(Laughs) It changes all the time. I do think that is a challenge, so I think that's why it's always important to make sure that I have people helping me that can kind of go with the times. You can't get stuck. You have to keep going to clinics. There is a lot more stunt and tumbling ... like gymnastics. When you look back at what we were doing when I started, it's definitely a lot harder now. Also, I think that squads have gotten a lot bigger. When I started I had 12 people on the squad and now I have between 20 and 30 most of the time. So there's a lot more kids involved."
What are you most proud of over the years as Dallastown's cheer leading coach?
"I don't think there's a moment. It's the kids and the relationships that have formed. Everyone that is really helping me coach right now is a former cheerleader. I get a chance to see them as they come back to things. Some of them have gone on to cheer at the college level and they've been prepared for that. I feel very lucky and happy when I get to keep in touch with a lot of them. Even when we were up at states, a lot of the former cheerleaders were sending messages to the girls involved and I do really think that we've developed a nice sort of family."
-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot at sports@yorkdis patch.com.