For some of us, school spirit and pep rallies conjure up painful memories of sitting in the bleachers and waiting for it all to be over. Then there are the folks who hope that “spirit” never dies. Meri Thresher is one of those people. Thresher, who likes to defy the ditzy stereotype of cheerleaders (but not the bubbly one), couldn’t face the day when her pompons would be put away for good. So she kept on cheering, and by using her adult business savvy, she has found a way to keep the dream alive. Cheer Sacramento, founded by Thresher, is an adult cheerleading team that puts its energy into raising money for good causes. You can catch the team performing around town or on the Web at www.cheersacramento.org.
How did you get involved with adult cheerleading?
I cheered for about 13 years through college. I really missed cheerleading, and I’d seen Cheer San Francisco and what they were doing and how huge they were and how talented their team was and just figured that Sacramento could use something like that, and I found out there was something similar.
What is your role with Sacto’s local cheerleading team?
I am the founder, president, coach—and I am on the team, too, so the overall runner of everything. It tends to be a lot. There was another community-based cheerleading team in Sacramento that wasn’t going very well. So, I created Cheer Sacramento, took a lot of their members and have been going from there. I am an entrepreneur, so I kind of know how to run a business a little bit better than the person who is running the other team.
Is there any higher good being served?
Our goal is to raise money for other nonprofits. We are working on being nonprofit ourselves. We raise money at different events for other nonprofits. We usually have our spirit buckets out after we perform, and then people put money it, and we donate that money.
Is there much of an audience for cheerleading?
There is. People are surprisingly interested in cheerleading, especially now that it seems to be much more of a skilled sport versus how it used to be back when I was in junior high school and it was very, very simple stuff. Especially when they find out we’re older, it amazes them.
What kinds of places have an audience for cheerleading?
We do a lot of the Prides: Sacramento and San Francisco Pride, Rainbow Festival, Castro Street Fair in San Francisco. We do a lot of runs. We helped with the California International Marathon, where we just stood on the sidelines, cheering people on. We’ve done different cancer walks.
How do people react when they find out you are a 31-year-old cheerleader?
Very judgmental. It goes either way. Some people go, “Oh, it figures,” or they go, “It’s not something you should be doing at your age,” or they just assume that I am dumb. I was working at a company where it was a constant joke about me being a cheerleader and that I couldn’t be smart if I was a cheerleader. It’s a sport like anything else. It doesn’t dumb you down; it’s just a regular sport, and actually it requires a lot of strength and skill.
So, is it the sort of thing you bring up in casual conversation?
If I am in a social situation, it’s a lot easier, because that is when I am recruiting. But if it’s a situation where I need a little more respect, it is something I hesitate to tell about for a little bit.
How long are you going to be doing this?
I don’t know. I think about that all the time. I know that I have definitely passed up some job opportunities because of my team being here, but I just love being a cheerleader. This is the first year I am taking more of a coaching role, and I think this is me setting the team up just in case I do end up wanting to leave, eventually. It would be hard for me to leave. I love cheerleading. I think I will always be involved in it. I always wonder how old is too old to be involved in cheerleading.
What can someone expect to see out of Cheer Sacramento?
We mostly dance and stunt; we don’t have a team to cheer for, so it makes it a little hard to cheer. We have music. A competition routine is about two minutes and 10 seconds long, so that is continuous dancing and throwing people above your head.
Do you get thrown above people’s heads?
Yeah, I do mostly partner stunting; I’ll also do the group stunts. It’s a real trust issue. You definitely have to trust your members to know that they are going to catch you.
Where can people go to watch you get thrown above someone’s head?
We are doing Sacramento Pride. That is going to be down at Southside Park. We’re going to be performing with our sister team, Cheer San Francisco. We have a parade we are going to be in, and we are going to be performing a couple of times a day. It’s June 10.