by Lorin Barnes
When most people hear the word cheerleader they tend to imagine fluffy pom-poms and ponytails, but it is much more than that for Cedarville cheerleading alumni Cassie Lenze.
Lenze should be what people think of when they hear the word. High spirited and entertaining, but most importantly a servant leader through and through.
Lenze is a Cedarville cheerleading alumni and graduated in 2018. She became a co-captain as a sophomore, allowing her to grow her leadership abilities. She then became captain her junior and senior year, exemplifying and teaching her teammates what this leadership position should look like. She has now returned to the Cedarville cheerleading program with a new leadership role: assistant cheerleading coach.
Lenze began cheerleading in elementary school and continued to cheer for the entirety of her high school career. When it was time for her to go off to college, she chose Cedarville University because she was seeking Christian community and wanted to be surrounded by the biblical worldview that it offered.
It came as a pleasant surprise to her when she learned that Cedarville had a cheerleading program. Lenze tried out for the team, making it her freshman year.
While Lenze was the only underclassman on the cheerleading squad, her teammates took her under their wing. She had accountability partners that met with her and taught her how to grow closer with Christ. She learned what servant leadership should look like and she soon would embody this type of leadership herself.
With her teammates graduating, Lenze found herself in a leadership position as the team’s co-captain the following year. She took what she learned about servant leadership and would always make a point to leave encouraging notes and check in on new members, especially transitioning freshmen. She also helped underclassmen grow and make their faith their own, just like her teammates did for her just a year before.
As a Cedarville cheerleader, Lenze also realized the impact that her position held. She has taught many young girls at multiple cheerleading camps held by the university and has watched bright eyed little girls on the sidelines trying to imitate her every move.
“We are really seen in the small community of Cedarville and many young girls really look up to us and watch everything we do,” said Lenze.
Lenze also learned a lot about trust during her college cheerleading experience.
“You must trust that the guy below you is going to catch you and guys must also trust that girls are going to do their part as well,” said Lenze.
Cheerleading is a dangerous sport, so trust is vital to prevent injury and build team unity. Stacking people on top of one another is no easy task. It requires mental toughness and physical strength from everyone involved. Team members must rely on one another to stay safe while stunting, so it is vital to have good relationships with those who throw you up, catch your feet, and break your falls.
The cheerleading team has not experienced any significant injuries because they put so much effort towards building these trusting relationships amongst its members. At the beginning of the season they do catching drills and share personal testimonies to create a cohesive team bond. This also teaches its members how important it is to trust people.
With all that she learned and cheerleading shaping her character and leadership abilities, Lenze could not stay away for long.
She is now working with teammates once again, but in a different context. Kristin Miller, head cheerleading coach for 21 years, has now begun to teach Lenze how to lead in a new way. Miller coached Lenze all four years of her college cheerleading career and has enjoyed seeing Lenze’s leadership evolve.
Miller said, “She has always embodied servant leadership, especially as a fourth-year senior and captain, but now she is learning how to lead as a coach.”
Lenze also explains how special this shift has been. She describes Miller as a distinguished coach with insightful techniques and appreciates everything that Miller does to teach her.
“She has a love for cheerleading and has dedicated so much of herself to this program,” Lenze said. “She recognizes that it is an outlet for a lot of team members and creates an environment that promotes growth and unity.”
Cheerleading is not all about the bows and skirts, but it embodies the idea of servant leadership and trust in a unique way. It helps develop athletes like Lenze into true leaders that then creates a ripple effect: leading to many more servant leaders to follow in her footsteps.