Lifestyle

Bainbridge High cheer team to help teens ‘Live Above the Influence’

Summer’s a busy time for the Bainbridge High School cheerleading team.

They recently returned from cheerleading camp at the University of Puget Sound, where they garnered four trophies and a “Best Tradition” plaque for their kick-off cheer, and qualified to participate in either the Florida Bowl or the Hawaii Bowl later this year.

But their biggest effort at the moment will be at home, to help other teens stay “above the influence.”

“As cheerleaders, what can we do to support this, in a safe environment, and re-define play in the high school community?” said head cheer coach Kerrie Agosta.

Following “Above the Influence,” a federal anti-drug program generated by the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign, the BHS cheerleading team wants to put together ways to keep teens engaged in above-board activities all summer long.

Highlights include pizza and skate parties, Capture the Flag at Battle Point Park, and a BHS night at the Bainbridge Aquatic Center.

The effort arose in part in response to BHS’ renewed commitment to its athletic code, which as Agosta describes it, must be adhered to by any student engaged in an extracurricular activity.

Essentially, she said, it stipulates that students may not participate in illegal substance use, or be present when illegal substances are being used by others.

The first violation, she summarized, would result in a 15-day suspension from participation in their activity. The second would result in suspension for the rest of the season.

The third would result in being banned from all extracurricular activities for the remainder of the offender’s high school career.

“So it’s pretty intense,” she said.

Agosta’s and the cheer team members’ hope is that fostering fun, ongoing group activities in public spots around the island will give students a place to go for sanctioned good times, rather than, say, going off into the woods to drink alcohol.

In a related effort to Live Above the Influence, the team is also experimenting with the idea of “Fan Frenzy,” the formation of a corps of BHS sports fans who will get on board to help promote spirit-related activities. This idea, Agosta said, arose from what she calls “disappointing” behavior on the part of a significant number of fans during the last school year.

Incidents included food and cups being thrown at opposing teams as they entered the football field, and spirit balls being hurled back at the cheerleaders who tossed them into the crowd.

In Agosta’s mind, this type of behavior, along with incidents of “malicious vandalism” like the type that occurred at the Bainbridge Police station earlier this summer, can stem from peer pressure but also from a sense of entitlement and a breakdown in personal integrity.

These last are two phenomena she hopes that her team can combat as individuals, and as leaders.

“I have a real passion for this,” she said. “I think that we are ripe for change... all it takes is a few kids banding together to rise above the norm and re-define play in a new way.”

In addition to coaching, Agosta is the mother of four kids ages 12 to 19. She has a healthy respect for the fact that being a teenager isn’t easy – especially for highly social kids.

So she believes in consequences for untoward actions and tries to instill in her kids her own sense of integrity and of right and wrong.

But she also sees the need for sensitivity.

“When you see kids fall down, and you see the effect of those consequences, how do you help them pull out?” she said. “There has to be a redemptive process of learning, and grace.”

Since that process is perhaps too big to tackle for now, she’ll focus for now on Capture the Flag and the rest of Above the Influence summer lineup.

“Any change, for me, is an effort and a step in the right direction,” she said.

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