By Ella Diamond (‘20) and Ariela Moel (‘22)
A brand new cheerleading squad intensified the spirit at San Diego Jewish Academy basketball games in the 2018-2019 winter season. Last year, Dalya Khan (‘19), Maya Baltinester (‘20), and Maya Sharf (‘20) all pictured the Lady Lions wearing a blue and yellow cheerleading uniform since there wasn’t already a cheer squad. This year that dream came true.
Baltinester recalls how when she first approached Coach Hill to ask about starting a cheer squad, Coach Hill replied, ‘Maybe next year.’ One of the major reasons Coach Hill was reluctant to create a cheer team was the fact that CIF hadn’t officially classified cheer as a sport.
However, in 2017, former California Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill (AB) 949, which classifies competition cheer as a California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) sport, just like basketball, cross country, football, gymnastics, lacrosse, volleyball, and soccer.
The passing of this bill prompted Coach Hill to reconsider adding competitive cheer to the SDJA athletic program. When asked what led her to make the final decision to implement cheer, Coach Hill replied that it came down to “CIF making cheer a sport in 2018 and having a substantial number of girls interested in it.”
The first cheerleading squad in SDJA history prepares to cheer at the varsity teams’ basketball game. (L-R: (Ariela Moel (‘22), Geena Benson (‘21), Ella Diamond (‘20), Rikki Dorfan (‘21), and Rena Novom (‘22)) Photo: Karina Evans (‘21)
As it turned out, there were 15 student athletes willing to participate, and the squad was successfully formed in a matter of days. Enthusiastic fans were soon coming to home basketball games to watch the action and hear the cheer squad roar “Take it to the hoop, Lions, WHOOP! To the hoop!”
Fans agree that the cheer squad has increased the level of school spirit and excitement at basketball games. Kayla Swartzberg (21’) concedes that this was the first year she ever went to watch a Lions basketball game. Swartzberg says, “The main reason I went to watch the game was to watch the cheer squad,” adding “I had a lot of fun! I can’t wait for next year so I can attend more games.”
Rena Novom (22’), a back spot on the SDJA cheer team, says her favorite part of this sport is stunting. “It’s always thrilling when we get to throw people in the air,” Novom says. As a back spot, her job is to make sure the flyer, who gets thrown into the air, doesn’t fall to the ground.
In cheerleading, there is a spot for everyone. Novom doesn’t like going up in the air and doesn’t feel extremely comfortable being a base, so being a backspot is the perfect position for her. Another cheerleader, Ariela Moel (22’), embraces this opportunity, unlike Novom, Moel prefers to be thrown in the air rather than pushing others up.
One of the many additions to our cheer uniform is our eccentric bow. Photo: Ella Diamond (‘20)
The success of the cheer team has driven SDJA Athletics to extend the sport to both the fall and winter sports seasons for the coming year. Many student athletes have already signed up to join the sport and are excitedly awaiting the beginning of the season in August. Novom says, “Cheerleading has been such an incredible experience. I loved it, and I can’t wait to do it next year!”