EASTHAM — Cheerleading helped Lara Rouillard fulfill a dream — it brought her back to Nauset Regional High School.
Rouillard graduated from Nauset in 2009 — back then, she was Lara Magalhaes and was captain of the cheerleading team. She’s originally from Brazil, where, she says, the sport is not nearly as popular as it is in the United States.
“Brazil is about 40 years behind the U.S. in cheerleading,” she says. “We’re really just starting at the collegiate level.”
Rouillard earned a business degree after high school and went back to Brazil, bringing her love of cheerleading with her. Today, she serves as president of the Brazilian Confederation of Cheerleading and Dance (CBCD), a private nonprofit association working to advance the sport there.
Last year, Rouillard returned to the Cape to visit and reconnected with someone she used to cheer on at Nauset.
“When I was at Nauset, I was a cheerleader and he was a football and basketball player,” she says.
She married Jon Rouillard soon thereafter, and while still holding her position with the CBCD, looked into a return to Nauset’s cheerleading program. She became coach of the team this season.
“I’m really thankful to our athletic director and principal for the opportunity,” she says. “The girls pulled it together this season. They were true warriors.”
The athletes appreciate her devotion to the sport. “We’ve gone through two other coaches during my four years,” senior cheer captain Karla Streett says, “but Coach Lara has been the coach that has truly dedicated her time to the team. She helped us grow as both athletes and people.”
The team, made up of eight girls, six of whom are seniors, finished fifth among 13 competing teams at the Game Day State Championship in early March last year, just before the pandemic hit.
This year, the season was short, with football season moved to the spring and winter cheer during basketball games canceled. Nauset did not participate in the invitationals it normally would have, and only some league and state-sanctioned competitions were held — virtually.
Nauset was finally able to take the field during the football team’s two home games this season.
Streett, who lives in Brewster, said in her previous three years, the team focused on All Star cheer, which involves stunts. During most stunts, teammates form pyramids and hoist one cheerleader at a time into the air. Airborn squad members then perform acrobatic flips before landing in the arms of their teammates.
But this year, due to Covid-19 protocols, the team focused on Game Day cheer, a version of cheerleading that focuses on leading the crowd. Though Game Day cheering does involve a fair amount of running, jumping, and flipping, it does not include team stunts.
“With Covid, we haven’t really been able to do a lot of stunts like we used to do,” Streett says. “We went to just spacing out and doing more dance and flip routines on our own.”
Even though the cheerleaders focused on their individual skills, they still formed a close bond.
“I learned the most this season,” Streett says. “This cheer team at Nauset is a family,” she adds.
The Cape and Islands League, which Nauset is a part of, did not have a sanctioned cheer competition this season, but Nauset was able to enter one virtual competition hosted by the All-Star Cheer Consultants. The team recorded its showcase performance and sent it in.
Nauset placed first in the non-building (no stunts) division. The team placed 27th out of 60 teams across all divisions.
The team held a live showcase at the high school gymnasium on April 15, where cheerleaders got to perform their routines for parents and students for the first time this season.
“It was nice to have everyone come to a place to see how far we’ve come,” Streett says. “Some of the football players came and showed support. We’re really proud.”
Rouillard is hoping to start a recreational cheer clinic this summer where a few of the graduating seniors, including Streett, can teach middle school students the sport. Streett said she hopes the clinic will encourage younger boys and girls to try cheerleading.
“It’s scary for freshmen to come in and try a new sport they’ve never done before,” she says. She grew up learning gymnastics and was introduced to cheerleading by her older sister.
Streett says she will be attending Cape Cod Community College next year. Her plan is to help Coach Lara at practices and continue to build the program.