WE'VE GOT SPIRIT by James T. McElroy


The Life and Times of America's Greatest Cheerleading Team
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A lengthy inside look at a group of young high school women who fight for self-esteem and wider horizons as members of the Greenup County High School cheerleading team. This is no small matter—the Greenup County Musketeer cheerleaders have fielded nationally competitive teams for 20 years and have won the national championship eight times since 1981. They are the girls seen annually on ESPN in their green and gold uniforms at the finals in Orlando, Fla. The 1997 championship team was featured in one of the memorable milk mustache ads. McElroy, an award-winning journalist and husband of a cheerleading coach, tries to explore how, year after year, girls from a small, struggling Kentucky county working with an unpaid coach can grab the national spotlight. Through interviews with team members and their coaches, he paints a picture of a region where morality is both rigid (girls do not date until they are 16) and flexible (teen pregnancy is common); family values are both uncertain (alcohol and abuse take their toll) and humane (neighbors open their homes to neglected children); the economy is uneven; and the high school football team (also uneven) still gets more respect than the championship cheerleaders. These cheerleaders are not just jump and jiggle—they are athletes, practicing tumbling and balance routines that reflect the discipline of gymnastics. The team also provides a kind of social trampoline for young women who might otherwise never venture out of Greenup County—they bond, travel, learn discipline and the satisfaction of achievement. They also learn about disappointment, rejection, and pain. McElroy doesn’t quite seem to nail the “why” of this team’s continually outstanding performance—the head coach is clearly key, but tape recording her pep talks isn’t revealing enough. Still, the snapshots of the cheerleaders and the drama of their competitions lends enough suspense for readers to chime in: “Go, Greenup, Go.” (48 b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-684-84967-4
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1998