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GCYFA: Weテ「况e got spirit, yes we do, weテ「况e got spirit テ「 how about you?

Article by Shannon Stewart Salinsky | Photography by Samantha Conner

Hats off to three ladies who are making rainbows, creating sunshine and generating sparkles around our communityテ「蚤ll while teaching our girls some valuable life lessons.

Itテ「冱 fall in Texas. While that means many things to many people, one thing is certainテ「杷ootball season in high gear. Thereテ「冱 nothing better than the sights of a green gridiron, and the sounds of fans and cheerleaders. Say goodbye to the heat and hello to fall and football! Youテ「况e probably heard about the intense competition that surrounds competitive cheer leagues. Not only do parents pay a hefty monthly fee, but there are extra costs for choreographers, pyramid coaches, special music compilations and more. The workouts are long and arduous. The demands and travel schedule are grueling. Oh yes, and letテ「冱 not forget about the high emotions, drama and anxiety.

Is competition good for my kid or not? The question has been around for decades but seems to be more relevant in recent years. Never before have our kids had such expectations put on them as they do today. I watched my nieceテ「冱 volleyball game recently and was stunned at the intensity of the game. I played varsity volleyball in high school and we must have looked like we were playing tiddlywinks compared to these girls. Experts argue that true success is derived from a competitive spirit. Some say youテ「决e born with it while others say you learn it from your parents or others. My three year old races me to the bathroom each morning to see who can be first on the potty. I assure you I didnテ「冲 teach her this.

If youテ「囘 rather hold off for a few years on the grind of competitive cheer, welcome to Grapevine Colleyville Youth Football Association (GCYFA). This is the fun,テつ cooperative, benevolent version of cheer. Everybody makes the squad. Everyone cheers. Everyone participates. There is no scolding if your child misses a practice or a game. Thereテ「冱 no テ「廝-teamテ「 here, everyone is an equal participant and team member. Founder, Kristen Lawless saw a need for a cooperative, fun, cheer association rather than a competitive one. Her vision was something that would build confidence in young girls.

The Sunshineテつ |テつ Meet the ladies behind GCYFA-Cheerテ「葱risten Lawless, Tiffany Carey and Samantha Conner. Lawless was the director of the program from 2003 to 2012. The results from those nine years is that many of the girls she taught the fundamentals to are now participating in collegiate teams, the GCISD High School squads, Champion Cheer and other competitive teams. Her legacy is what drives the organization. She trained the current director and assistant director to take over the program. Their young daughters will grow the program, just as many whoテ「况e come before them. Lawless has a warmth in her heart for the girls that coined her the nickname, テ「the sunshine of this program.テ「 In many ways, Lawless was the sunshine that made the program grow from the beginning. In addition, Lawless radiates a warm glow from within and the girls were naturally drawn to this.

Although Lawless is no longer the director, she stays very connected to the program. テ「廬t made me proud to bring girls from all of the different schools together to create friendships and memories that would last a lifetime. I prided myself on keeping the program fun and not competitive, while making sure that the girls always looked and felt great about themselves. I wanted to give the girls the tools they needed to be confident and focused while still having fun. I also wanted to teach them skills they can use as they grow into young women and ladies. I miss leading the program everyday!テ「 Conner and Carey said Lawlessテ「 presence will always be felt in the organization, and they will work hard to honor the foundation she laid. テつ

The Rainbow | Tiffany Carey has been the director since 2012. She is a teacher in Grapevine-Colleyville ISD and is no stranger to cheering. She is a former National Football League (NFL) cheerleader for the Denver Broncos. She has three daughters and has been a part of the GCYFA organization for the past three years. テ「廬 loved cheering in my hometownテ「冱 youth cheerleading organization. I remember my coaches and appreciate the skills they taught me as they ultimately prepared me for being able to perform in the NFL. My hope is that these girls look fondly upon their experience, learn self-confidence, team work and the rules of football. It is also my hope that they will have it in their hearts to give back to their community in the future.テ「 Carey is the rainbow and the big-picture person. She has a vision of how the program can continue to grow but still keeping the traditions that have been put in place by Lawless.

テ「廬 consider myself a servant leader, and I have had so many opportunities to meet with members of the community while serving in this leadership position that I am just thankful each day for the opportunity. Parents trust me to take care of their daughters and to make sure this program promotes positive self-esteem, safety, teamwork and fun in a non-competitive atmosphere. I try to stay visible and out in front for people to see and to go to for questions and concerns. I have brought the dancing aspect to the program that allows girls to explore and see if they prefer the cheer or drill team aspect of the sport. I walk into schools and girls yellテ「氾「狼hereテ「冱 Miss Tiffany!テ「 And then they run and give me hugs. I love every minute of it!テ「

The Sparkle | Conner has been the assistant director since 2012. She makes everything in this organization sparkle. She is a stay-at-home mom with two daughters and author of the popular blog, テ「廚rafty Texas Girls.テ「 Conner makes everything (literally from bow to toe) shine! The uniforms are top notch because she has sought out the best vendors. She works hard to ensure the organization creates a brand that exudes happiness. She is a good steward of the organization and moves mountains with very limited resources. Compared to Carey, sheテ「冱 more the テ「話ehind-the-scenesテ「 girl who makes the rubber meet the road with all the small details. She takes care of social media, all the accounting details, and anything else needed to run an efficient program. テ「廬テ「况e gotten as much out of the cheer program as my girls have. I love the friendships weテ「况e made with other mothers and daughters. GCYFA is a true community, and Iテ「冦 proud to be a part of it.テ「

The Details | Girls in grades Kindergarten through 6th grade may participate. The cheer season runs from September through November. The season offers various special activities such as cheering at Cowboys Stadium and participating in the high school homecoming parades. GCYFA has its own schedule, color and team squads. Each cheerleading team is assigned two football teams. The girls usually cheer at all home games. テ「弩e love our parents! They really get involved and bring signs that promote cheer and spirit that truly make it fun for everyone involved,テ「 said Conner. テ「弩eテ「决e working at creating a true brand at GCYFA,テ「 said Carey. テ「弩e work very hard on テ「惑riend requestsテ「 in which we put friends or sisters who want to cheer together on the same squad. This makes it a great experience for the whole family to have their girls together or cheering for their brotherテ「冱 team. It alleviates mom or dad from having to run kids all over town.テ「 The directors incorporate college style cheering (including fight songs, touchdown songs, etc). Also included are dance moves within some of the cheers. The directors want the girls to experience all aspects of cheer. This is an opportunity where every girlテ「冱 dream to be a cheerleader actually comes true. テ「弩e try to have two coaches per squad. These coaches love our girls and donate a lot of their time to help make our girls shine... we couldnテ「冲 do it without them!テ「

Teaching Values | Teaching values that will last a lifetime is also a tenant of this organization. This year the directors instituted seven different categories in which the girls can earn stickers for their megaphones. The categories are non-competitive, lift up the girls and promote good decision-making skills. The seven categories are: being positive, being ready, being proud, having a great spirit, being a team player, trying hard and bringing all the skills together. GCYFA is going high tech this year. Watch them on Facebook and Instagram with the name MustangPantherCheer. The organization uses Youtube to help their cheerleaders feel as confident as possible. They post dance and cheer instruction so the girls can practice at home and be prepared for camp. テつ

Scholarship Opportunities | The organization also reaches girls in the community who may never have the opportunity. About 10 percent of the girls participate by scholarships (for cost of the uniforms, camps, etc). In addition (for the girls not on scholarships) the organization offers a main fundraising event or opportunity in which the girls learn stewardship and are able to help alleviate some of the costs that fall on mom and dad. If you have a daughter who has dreamed of being a cheerleader, this is a great place to start experiencing the sport. For information email MustangPantherCheer@gmail.com