Illiana’s first male cheerleader defies boundaries, gravity

Teammates welcome Christopher Bass to “the cheer family”

by Beth Boonstra, Illiana journalism student

Christopher Bass, far right, participates with his teammates at a Loud Crowd rally. (Photo: Deb Kamp)
LANSING, Ill. (January 2018) – Illiana’s newest up-and-coming cheerleader is a flexible jumper, a quick learner, and a trailblazer—Illiana’s first and only male cheerleader. Junior Christopher Bass may not wear a bow and glitter, but he cheers just as fiercely as the rest.

“Chris is an incredible asset to our team,” said cheer coach Carisa Beezhold. “He has amazing jumps, is now tumbling at an advanced level, and adds stability to our stunts and pyramids.” She said that the girls were now working harder on their jumps just to try to keep up with him.

Surprisingly, Bass has not had any gymnastics experience other than personal stretching, but he has cheer experience, and many of his family and friends do cheer. They encouraged him to join this year, so he did.

The dance choreographer has intentionally avoided hip swings or other moves for Bass’s sake. Bass participates in everything except for the poms routines just like everyone else on the team.

Cheer is harder than most people think, according to Bass. He said that they worked on sideline cheers for one day and spent the rest of the time practicing for routines and competitions.

Cheer captain Gracie Bultema said, “Everyone thought something was wrong. They didn’t like a coed team because it’s out of the ordinary. I feel like the Loud Crowd game was a chance for Chris to show the school his skills. He did amazing, and I hope that people will respect him for choosing the cheer team because he has worked so hard to be where he is now.”

Junior cheerleader Lily Gerstner has received feedback on both ends of the spectrum. Comments have ranged from “Wow, that boy is really good,” to, “Hey, is that boy on your team gay?” Gerstner, along with the rest of the team, has never felt uncomfortable with the situation.

“He knows his job and does it with the most respect possible,” she said.

Bass has come to accept the negative feedback. “Some people may take it well, some people may not. For me [the negative feedback] is consistent, so it’s just ‘whatever’ at this point. I just deal with it….”

Bultema notices a difference in team dynamic having a male on the team. “The team definitely has to be careful of how our feelings and emotions come out. We used to talk about relationship problems and our feelings. Sometimes he feels a little uncomfortable.”

Gerstner said, “There is nothing different to me. His smile, personality, and sass is what makes Christopher Bass himself. Being a boy doesn’t stop him from doing what he loves. Yes, of course we are used to an all-girl team, but we don’t love each other for being girls; we love each other because we are a cheer family.”

Beezhold said, “One lady actually came down out of the stands at a competition to tell Caitlyn, the assistant coach, how impressed she was with his jumps, not only the height but also his technique. At the Seneca tournament, the fans for the opposing team wanted him to jump during timeouts they enjoyed watching him so much.”

Illiana Christian High School is located at 2261 Indiana Avenue in Lansing. Call 708-474-0515 for information about athletics or academics.

 

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