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Panthers’ TopCats return for girls’ cheer clinic

Just like NFL players, each team’s cheerleaders have their own offseasons, with tryouts, routines and processes to prepare for another season kicking off in September.

The Carolina Panthers’ TopCats, for which the 2012 squad was selected in late May with 11 newcomers joining 13 returning women, will visit Myrtle Beach from Charlotte for the third annual “Fun in the Sun Cheer and Dance Clinic.” Welcoming girls ages 7-18, the TopCats and with host Dolce Lusso Salon and Spa of Myrtle Beach, will lead a two-hour workout 10 a.m.-noon Saturday in the city’s Valor Memorial Garden, on Farrow Parkway, at The Market Common.

Richelle Grant, coordinator and choreographer of the TopCats, shared some insight into the realm of cheerleading, and the women who make time for this sidelight among their own careers.

Just how big a blend of athletics, fitness, choreography, rhythm and the right music is cheerleading? Does one part develop before the other, or is there an order, a progression to it all?

It all blends together and is needed in cheerleading. I feel rhythm is the most essential trait, because rhythm can’t be taught. After rhythm, fitness, because good physical fitness aids in a cheerleader’s endurance. Choreography comes next because that is the entertaining component. A cheerleader must be able to execute the choreography being taught, and everyone must look like a team doing so.

With this job cheering for 10 games a year – and more with home playoff games – as an extracurricular activity for each TopCat, how many of the women are college students and what range of professional fields do the ladies represent?

Nearly half of the cheerleaders are college students, either finishing undergrad or pursuing graduate programs. The professional fields of our cheerleaders range from graphic designers, to engineers, to entrepreneurs to personal trainers. We truly have a well-rounded group of women who set goals for themselves and attain them.

Giving this clinic every summer in Myrtle Beach has become an annual event for local girls. All year long, how does such outreach by the TopCats across the Carolinas bring extra cheer to the TopCats and for the Panthers’ fan base?

Having camps in both South and North Carolina spreads excitement about the upcoming season and the team. It’s important for the cheerleaders to make appearances throughout the Carolinas because many of the fans aren’t able to attend games, and with that, the cheerleaders like to bring the excitement of the Carolina Panthers to fans in their areas.

How does cheerleading enhance the TopCats’ own fanfare of this truly American sport we call football?

Cheerleading enhances football because it’s part of the entertainment experience. Cheerleaders help get the fans enthused, which in turn gets the team pumped up. It’s a chain reaction, and on game day, their role is to rally the fans together to cheer those guys to victory.

For everyone who makes an NFL cheer squad after what must be formidable competition for those precious few slots per team, at what age does the urge to cheer hit a youngster?

Cheerleading can begin as early as 5 years old. Being part of a team atmosphere, the sparkly pompoms, and the opportunity to yell as loud as possible is enough to get children excited about the sport. Many children have a lot of energy to burn, and cheerleading requires energy.

With every clinic the TopCats lead, what’s the biggest reward the women want the girls to bring home after your two-hour workout?

The biggest reward the cheerleaders would like for the girls to bring home is a sense of accomplishment. Learning choreography and performing it within a two-hour time frame is not easy. We want the girls to have a blast, and take pride in their hard work.