story by Joe Mindak
images courtesy of Cheer Dynamics
Two, four, six, eight—who do we under appreciate? A little known group of hard working coaches and young girls and boys who have been winning local, regional and national cheerleading competitions over the last 24 years for Hoboken… We’ve all been witness to the typical cheerleading for sports teams, but the competitive nature of what the Cheer Dynamics team trains for is a completely different level.
Launching a Legacy
In 1992, Michele Russo, Rosemarie Lorenzo, David Gonzalez and Annette Collins got together and decided to organize a competitive cheerleading team sponsored by Hoboken Recreation. When Michele found out the cheer program at the school was going to be cancelled, she decided it was time to start a new program.
Russo was the driving force in getting the program approved by the Recreation Department and was able to get the team started. Rosemarie was a musical comedy singer and dancer and her daughters loved cheering. She would start coaching the dance/cheer team at Calabro School, as her middle daughter was on the team, but soon after they restructured the schools and the team was no longer able to continue. Meanwhile the Catholic schools started to close as well and had girls interested in cheering. She hooked up with David who started out as a choreographer for the high school dance team in the 1980. He was coaching three teams at the time. Nancy and David decided to help these kids and give them a place to cheer—Cheer Dynamics was born.
At the start they would start with only two teams, Biddies (the young team) and the A team, competing only locally in the recreation division, which consisted of schools and recreation. The next year they would add a high school team and start competing nationally with their first tournament in Myrtle Beach. Being their first national competition they made Hoboken proud with two teams winning the competition and the high school team taking 8th out of 30 teams.
And just like that Cheer Dynamics was on the map.
This would light a spark for the team, as the next year close to 100 girls would try out for the squad. It was now a chance to pick from the best girls to join the team, as they would be stepping up the competitions. Next stop was Disneyland in Anaheim, California—but they needed to find a way to pay for the team to get there. The new kids on the block from Hoboken would get a sponsorship from Continental Airlines to cover the entire teams airfare. On top of that they would also film the entire trip there, the competition, team at Disney, etc for a promotion for the airline. They would run the segment on the planes promoting the Hoboken Recreation cheerleaders heading to Disney for the National Cheer competition. The three teams would take first, second and third places. Every year after they would head to a national competition.
In 2004, Nancy Vitale would join the coaching staff, as her older daughter was cheering. The issue was most of the senior team was interested in cheering for their high school sports teams. Less and less girls were looking to compete with Cheer Dynamics. The senior team stepped up and it was time for them to leave the Rec league and start the Cheer Dynamics All Star Team. They were in a new league. Soon after all three teams would join the all-star league.
2007 and 2008 they would compete at Final Destination, which is the U.S. Finals in Virginia Beach and the biggest national competition. They would beat over 30 teams to win.
Toddlers and Tiaras
If you’ve ever been to a competitive cheer competition you get it. If you haven’t, get ready for a new world. You enter a suburban high school on a Saturday afternoon to hundreds of screaming girls dressed in bedazzled cheer outfits and faces with makeup painted on. It all seems like a scene from “Toddlers and Tiaras,” but there is a method to the madness you experience. The teams are not judged on their routine alone but also enthusiasm and spirit is part of the scoring. The makeup is to highlight their faces onstage so the judges can see their stage presence.
All Stars is also a very competitive division that combines gymnastics and dance with the cheer routine. Originally teams would compete in local competitions and do the simple rolls, round offs, cartwheels etc. that were typical in cheerleading. Then World Cup, a leading cheer competition division, started to incorporate gymnastics, dance and cheerleading together.
The rigors of practicing for cheer competitions are nothing you would ever imagine—comparable to three-a-days in high school football. These teams practice 3 days a week for 2 hours per practice. They repeat their routine over and over and over again flipping, rolling and carrying each other around the mat until they get it right. And you might think the coaches take it easy on them as these are girls ages 5 to 16. Just like there is, “no crying in Baseball,” there is no mercy in cheer competition. The coaches are tough, but you’ll never hear a complaint from the team. They love cheering and realize the hard work and toughness pays off every time they win another competition. Some of them love it so much they come back. Currently, Gina who cheered in 1993 and Nicole who cheered in 1997 are back coaching the Tiny team.
Not only do they simply cheer but they also expand outside the mats. During Earth Day they go out and help clean the city. Christmas they work with children with Aids and buy gifts for all the kids. They also have to raise money to be able to travel to the competitions. You’ll find the girls “canning” outside of ShopRite or at stop lights around town where they decorate used coffee cans and spend hours collecting loose change and donations to help pay for their competitions. They are learning more than simply how to cheer.
Competing for Their Future
Despite numerous championships, the team still needs support. Many of the competing towns are spending thousands of dollars a year on sending their kids to competitions and giving them the resources they need. The City of Hoboken supports the team financially through the recreation department, but they don’t have the facilities other teams have to train. Being a city filled with sports teams, private leagues, clubs, etc all looking to use the same facilities it’s tough to find time, space and equipment they need to train correctly. Other towns have the luxury of private gyms to train in on the right mats that are used in competition. The team has the mats but not the space to have them setup of the team to train on. They are hoping in the future to find a space to use as their permanent home and give them the training they need. They are also hoping to promote the team to attract more kids to the program that don’t know about this fantastic program Hoboken offers.