By Eric Erickson,
Sports analysis

On a cold winter’s night, energy emanates from a corner of the Como Park gym.

While basketball players compete on the court, the Cougar cheerleading team is stomping in rhythm, getting the crowd out of their seats and up on their feet.

“G-E-T, G-E-T, G-E-T! We need you to G-E-T up out your seat! What? Como Park said get up out your seat!”

It’s an action cheer with choreography, and a crowd favorite along with “Let’s get this beat started” and “Chile, please” (with ‘e’ replacing the ‘d’ from child).

The refrains are familiar to Como parents and students in the bleachers, producing smiles and spirit.

The talent of the Como cheerleaders enhances the community experience for home football games in the fall, and both boys’ and girls’ basketball games during the long winter season.

To reach the level of impact the cheer team strives for, commitment is critical. Accountability is high. And leadership is essential. Dr. Tamara Mattison and her daughter Jasmine Mattison provide the guidance needed as Como’s cheerleading coaches.

Called “Dr. T” or coach by the girls, Dr. Mattison grew up cheering in Ohio. She went on to earn her doctorate in organizational management and leadership, currently serving as a senior administrative manager for Hennepin County.

Mattison began coaching cheerleading at Como when Jasmine joined the team. After Jasmine’s graduation in 2008, Dr. T stepped down before returning to co-coach the Cougars with her daughter in 2016. Their presence has kept the program consistently positive— visibly on game nights and behind the scenes.

“We try to create a sense of community amongst ourselves and empower the girls to be leaders,” Jasmine Mattison said. “Whether it’s in their jobs or in school, we work on problem-solving, decision making de-escalation, and you see the impact that it makes on their behavior as well as on those around them.”

“We definitely promote sisterhood, collaboration, teamwork, respect, integrity and we really push their academics,” Dr. Mattison said. “We have high expectations for them. They are examples and need to set the standard (for responsibility) and self-control.”

With a laugh, Dr. Mattison added, “They think I’m really hard. When they become adults, they’ll thank me. But now, they’re questioning me.”

Senior captains Naomi Joshua and Amorie Northington have grown up in Como’s cheerleading team. They echo their coaches when discussing program values.

“It’s more than cheering,” Northington said. “It’s about relationships. Cheerleading’s taught me patience. I know how to handle situations. Coaches are like two moms that we have. If it wasn’t for cheering, I wouldn’t be where I am academically.”

“We can come to our coaches about stuff,” Joshua said. “They give us good advice—even times we don’t want to hear it. And now that I’m older, it’s cool to lead by example for the younger girls.”

The winter basketball squad is primarily composed of younger girls. So, the senior captains are busy leading cheer instruction and being role models. There were 16 girls for football season, which is significantly shorter with fewer games.

The current basketball cheer season requires two practices a week, two home games a week, and selective road games. With that intense schedule and the high academic standards, there are 11 girls on the roster.

Beyond the captains, the squad includes sophomores Jayda Ferrell, Rose Prieto and Charez Watson; freshmen Loriana Williams, Akira Kelly, Casselyn Neely and Alani Schubert; plus middle-schooler Samone Mattison and fifth-grader La’Vae Jenkins.

Collaborative practices among a wide range of ages allow the multi-generational feel of family to flourish. Creativity is encouraged with new ideas accepted by all in what Joshua said is a “judgment-free zone.”

Dr. Mattison noted she cheered in a time of traditional routines including stunts and flips. Como’s style today is based on stomps and beats.

“With our stomp and shake we put more soul into our cheers,” Jasmine Mattison elaborated.

Spectators notice the tight coordination and athleticism. There’s a strong level of fitness required to perform with the energy they exert. Because of that, practices also involve stretching, lifting and cardio work to increase stamina.

Cheerleading is unique because performance doesn’t correlate directly with a game’s results. Sometimes there is shared joy, but on its own Como cheerleading doesn’t win or lose. They’re not in competition. But they know when they’re good.

“We’re very self-aware. Our whole point is to make everyone feel welcomed and hyped.” Northington said. At the same time, it’s nice to be recognized.

When fans from other schools compliment Como cheerleading, it’s meaningful. When referees say, “You’re the best,” it’s affirming. When players and fans ask, “Will the cheerleaders be at the away game?” the impact of Como cheerleading is clear. 

Eric Erickson is a social studies teacher at Como Park High School and a longtime coach of youth sports.

Photo cutline: The Como Senior High School cheerleading team in action at a recent basketball game. Photo by Eric Erickson.

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