braswell@postandcourier.com

If you know the difference between a high V and a low V, chances are you are the parent of a cheerleader. And chances are that cheerleader got her start at a place like St. Andrew’s Parks and Recreation Department.

The 37 St. Andrew’s basketball cheerleaders ages 5-11 recently held an expo at the gym to thank their families and demonstrate the skills they learned over the past season.

Cheerleader Merritt Meeks was recognized at the expo for being a role model and leader, while parents Tameka Lawer and Jelana Brown were honored for their service.

“It was really a way for the girls to be able to show their parents all the cheers, the dances, the jumps and stunts they had learned throughout the season,” said Mandi Jiminez, who coordinated the program for St. Andrew’s this year.

“We did five closed-door practices at the end of the year in which the parents weren’t allowed to come into the room so that all the things they did at the expo were a surprise.”

Jiminez said this was the only opportunity to bring all the girls together at one time. Because there were so many basketball games, they had to divide into groups. Jiminez said that while the basketball teams had between eight and 10 games, the cheerleaders had to work 16 games.

This was the third year Jiminez has coached cheerleaders. She was a youth cheerleader growing up and volunteered to coach when her daughter Elizabeth, now 10, wanted to cheer three years ago.

When she began, St. Andrew’s had three cheerleading teams, but there was talk of disbanding the cheerleading program this season, so she volunteered to take on all the cheerleaders. Ashley Beach was her assistant.

Jiminez said she got the basketball schedule and roster and then coordinated it so that if families had a child playing and a child cheering there would be at least one game in which they could watch both children participate.

The cheerleaders began practicing two weeks before Christmas, and games began the week after New Year’s. Once the basketball season began, they did not practice until the season ended and began preparing for the expo.

Jiminez said she and Beach stressed that cheerleaders are supposed to have manners and carry themselves in a certain way. They are expected to cheer people on, not just in games, and be responsible. The cheerleaders were not allowed to wear jewelry and had to dress in an appropriate way.

“I want them to know they are expected to be young ladies. I actually tell them they are perfect princesses and that cheering is something you can take further in life because you are a part of something bigger than yourself. You’re part of a team,” Jiminez said.

She said the camaraderie extends beyond the games and that the cheerleaders get together once a month for outings and made lasting friendships through the program.