Lil’ Viks, bigger spirit

If you’ve been to a football or basketball game, you’ve probably seen a group of passionate elementary school students, cheering on the sidelines with spirit gear and pom-poms. These are the Lil’ Viks. At their cheer camp, held twice a year for one day, boys and girls in pre-K through sixth grade get instruction from cheerleaders, a set of pom poms and the chance to cheer for a crowd. For many, this is a path that leads to high school cheer.

Joanna Wyler
The Lil’ Viks perform during halftime at a girls basketball game. They paired up with a chearleader as they practiced their routine.

“A lot of these little girls love and adore [the cheerleaders] and want to be cheerleaders themselves one day,” cheer coach Sarah Heindel said.

Current cheerleaders help with the instruction. They teach sideline cheers, fun chants like “Hey Burrito!” and a dance routine before the girls head off to the game to perform.

“I just love seeing the high school girls take these little girls under their wing and have a fun time with them,” Heindel said. “The little girls are just so excited to see their older friends.”

This isn’t a one-time event for the younger kids, either. Lil’ Viks often come many years in a row, building close bonds with their older peers.

“[The cheerleaders] always have the kids that keep coming back to the camp that they look forward to having as their little buddy,” Heindel said.

Through these relationships, the Lil’ Viks learn commitment to their routines and interpersonal skills.

“I really enjoy how it’s not just one week or not just that game for them. I see them later trying all these cheers which I think is really cute,” freshman Lena Shanafelt said.

The benefits of the camp are not just for the Lil’ Viks, Junior Chloe Veronica said. Over her time helping teach, she’s learned valuable skills as well.

Photo courtesy of Sarah Heindel
The Lil’ Viks work on their routine on Wednesday, two days before their show. There are two Lil’ Viks camps each year, open to students in pre-K to sixth grade.

“I feel like it benefits [your] patience — your way to help people understand instead of getting frustrated if something takes a long time,” Veronica said. “It kind of helps being like, ‘Okay! Let’s take things slowly so everyone gets it and understands and works together.’”

Working together is a central element of cheer and motivation for many of the girls.

“I’ve always wanted to do [cheer] since I was a little girl — it’s something that I always dreamed about doing,” Veronica said. “It’s super fun, and I really enjoy the team aspect of it.”

Other cheerleaders, however, have their own reasons. For Shanafelt, Lil’ Viks is about the joy of helping others.

“I really enjoy teaching other people, so that experience is really exciting, passing what I know to people who look up to me,” Shanafelt said.

Before she became a cheerleader, Shanafelt was a member of junior cheer. She said she joined after seeing how much fun her friends were having with it. This year was her first helping with the Lil’ Viks camp.

In the end, Shanafelt said what draws her to cheer is the individuality and fun.

“It’s not something that’s super competitive, you can just show your energy,” Shanafelt said. “It doesn’t have to be based on everyone else. You can be yourself and have fun doing it.”