After doing some stretches, it was time for Anna Schepman and Justin Green to learn all about cheerleading.
Watching every move of Hayle Elmore, Hana Elmore and Jayda Clodfelder of the Synergy Athletics All-Stars, Schepman and Green were able to do different cheers and dances.
They also got to walk on a balance beam, run on the spring floor and play a few games.
At the end of the hourlong session, they were breaking a sweat.
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That didn’t matter, though, because there was a lot of smiling and laughing going on.
Schepman and Green said they plan to continue attending the special needs cheerleading clinic from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursdays this summer at Gymnastics Lane in Seymour.
They hope at least three other kids join them so a team can be established to participate in competitions later this year.
Charity Clodfelder, a second-year coach with the Synergy program who is leading the special needs cheerleading team, said she has worked with special needs children for more than 20 years and is excited to offer something new to local youth.
“Some of your cheerleaders will come in and they are complaining because ‘I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to do that,’ but these kids have smiles on their face the whole time. They are so fun to work with,” she said. “For me to get something where special needs kids can go have fun and feel like they are like all of the other kids means the world to me.”
The monthly cost of the clinic is $40. The uniform cost will be an additional $100 if they get enough people to compete.
Synergy’s competitions are December through March and usually span a few days in a row, but the special needs performances are only a part of one of the days.
They do 2-minute, 30-second routines just like all of the other teams.
“When the special needs (competitors) come out, it is just amazing,” Clodfelder said. “The crowd goes wild. They have so much fun, and they never complain. They always have a smile on their face.”
Typically, she said there are at least five special needs teams at the competitions. All of them receive either a medal, a ribbon or a trophy.
“Some of our girls can go in and help with the routine and hold them and put them up in stunts and different things,” Clodfelder said.
Clodfelder tried to get a special needs team going last year, but Schepman was the only one to sign up for the clinic.
She told Schepman’s mother, Angie, she would try it again this year. Again, Anna was the only one to show up at first.
Clodfelder then got her cousin’s son, Green, to attend the clinic. She now needs at least three other kids to start a team.
During the clinics, the children do jumps, stunts, dances and cheers and focus on flexibility, coordination, teamwork and rhythm.
Angie Schepman said she sees the benefits of cheerleading for her daughter.
Anna participates in private physical, occupational and speech therapy sessions on a weekly basis, but it’s just her and a therapist. Cheerleading encompasses all of those therapies at once in a small group setting.
“She gets the speech, the occupational part and the physical part, and it’s fun,” Angie said. “She doesn’t know that I’m seeing the benefits from a therapeutic side. She’s totally into this.”
Bobbie Green said her son has participated in school musicals and loves to dance along to YouTube videos, so she thought he would like cheerleading, too.
Justin has autism, and his mother said cheerleading helps him in a couple of ways.
“No. 1, it’s something that he loves. No. 2, it builds their motor skills because their brain constantly runs,” she said. “This gives their brain something to run with. It gets them focused on what they are doing, and so it’s something that their brain has to think about doing. It actually gets them to move with it. He caught on very quickly with the cheers. He can see the routine once and have it.”
Angie said she becomes emotional when she sees Anna interacting with the cheerleaders.
“She is their best teacher, and they are her best teacher. That’s what I love about it,” Angie said.
“Being a part of a group and knowing that she belongs, she is big about being on a team. Her brothers play basketball and football, and she wants that same opportunity,” Angie said. “I love that it’s at her pace, and it makes her feel good about herself, and she’s successful at it. This is all about her the whole hour. The whole hour was about what she could do, not winning a competition.”
Angie said she was looking into having Anna join a cheerleading team in Indianapolis, but she’s glad one is trying to get established close to home.
Both parents hope to see the team grow.
“I’m very, very happy that Charity is doing this,” Bobbie said. “For the special needs kids, there’s not much out there for them. They need something to do just as well as the other kids do.”
Synergy Athletics All-Stars is conducting cheerleading clinics for children with special needs.
The sessions are from 6 to 7 p.m. Thursdays throughout the summer at Gymnastics Lane, 1533 W. Tipton St., Suite A, Seymour. The cost is $40 per month.
The plan is to start a competitive special needs cheerleading team. At least five kids are needed to do that. The uniform cost will be an additional $100 if they get enough people to compete.
For information, call 812-525-4768.