PAFA Spirit Cheerleading Jumps Into New Season

April 15, 2024

Sis, Sis, Sis! Boom, Boom, Boom! Princeton, Princeton, Princeton! According to USA Cheer, the first known organized cheers took place at Ivy league college sporting events in the 1860’s. Currently cheerleading is one of the most popular activities across the United States and around the globe.

Closer to home, Palatine Park District’s PAFA Spirit is preparing to jump into a new season. According to Linda Millar who coordinates the program for the District, PAFA Spirit is a cheer sports program open to athletes in grades 1-8. The participants perform at football games in support of PAFA Football, the Palatine Amateur Football Association.

Why is cheerleading a favorite American pastime? Physical endurance, strength training, flexibility, coordination, teamwork, and leadership skills are all attributes of cheerleading.

According to Lisa Schroeder, Palatine Park District’s Special Interest Coordinator, “The focus is on fun and learning the skills of cheerleading,” Schroeder said.  “Linda Millar who has run the cheer program for almost 20 years is passionate about the program,” she added.

Millar became involved with the program when she signed up her then 2nd grade daughter as a PAFA cheer participant. “PAFA instilled such a love of cheer in my daughter that she cheered on her junior high team and cheered on the varsity team at Fremd High School,” Millar said. “She also cheered on several all-star teams as well as her college team. Like most of our coaches, she too came back to coach for PAFA,” she added.

 “We focus on participants who want to engage in a low key, educational, fun, community-based program,” Millar said.  “Our cheerleading program fills this niche. Our purpose has always been to teach the fundamentals of cheerleading, teamwork, self-esteem, and the ideals of good sportsmanship. Competing to win was always secondary to the building of these skills,” she added.

Millar loved the program as much as her daughter and went on to serve various volunteer roles until presently, serving as the coordinator. “I still love PAFA Cheer,” she said.  “I love it when young participants come to the first practice shy and withdrawn and by the end of the season, they are confident and strong. I see them blossom before my eyes and it is beautiful. I remain committed to the program because of them!”

PAFA Spirit, as it is currently known, began focusing on recreational sideline cheerleading in 2022.  “There are benefits to not competing,” said Millar. “Practices are fewer, so participants have more time to do other things,” she said. “Participants can focus on learning skills in a less demanding environment, and we can focus on teaching the skills of teamwork and sportsmanship and have fun while doing it,” she added.  “Not all high school cheerleaders try out for their competition team,” she said. “Some prefer to do sideline or spirit cheer only and we cater to that set of participants.” Millar said that cheering at games gives participants confidence in front of a crowd and provides them and their families an opportunity to be outside with other members of the community enjoying game day.  

“We have great relationships with the varsity cheer coaches at both Fremd and Palatine High School and for years we have been participating with their cheerleading teams at the crosstown football game when Palatine and Fremd High School play against each other,” she said.  “It is a great event and a long-standing tradition,” she added.

 The majority of PAFA Spirit coaches are current or former high school cheerleaders. One former PAFA Spirit coach, Shannon Surell, is moving into her 3rd year as Varsity Cheer Coach at Palatine High School.  “PAFA Spirit is so special because the cheerleaders are often directly coached by cheerleaders from Palatine and Fremd High School,” she said. “This means that the PAFA Spirit cheerleaders have role models who are showing them the expectations and techniques of the program that they could be part of when they get older! Also, many PAFA Spirit coaches are alumni of the PAFA cheerleading program and can share their passion of cheerleading and of being a previous Panther,” she added. “Another reason PAFA is so special is that it is run out of the Palatine Park District, making the program extremely affordable for all families,” Surell said. “It allows everyone to get a chance to participate, regardless of skill level or previous experience with cheerleading. The program is very welcoming and provides a great place for all youth cheerleaders to develop their cheerleading skills,” she added.

According to Millar, cheer season begins in July in the evenings. Athletes will practice two to three nights a week during July and August and then one night a week once school starts. They will cheer each weekend, either home or away on Saturday or Sunday, during the PAFA football season which runs August through October.

Registration for the 2024 PAFA Spirit season is currently underway. Register at Palatine Park District’s Community Center, Birchwood Recreation Center, or Falcon Park Recreation Center or online at

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