MONMOUTH — Monmouth Academy freshman Jacob Umberhind wanted to stay in shape this winter and continue to work on his strength for next year’s football season.
A two-way lineman for the Winthrop/Monmouth co-op team, Umberhind wasn’t interested in basketball or wrestling — two of the three sports Monmouth offers for boys during the winter as their own teams, the other being Nordic skiing. The Mustangs do co-op with Cony and Hall-Dale for hockey.
What other sport could offer him to work on his strength and stamina to prepare for football season? Cheering was the answer.
“Cheering, I saw you could use your muscles and throw people and I was into that aspect,” Umberhind said. “I wanted to keep going and keep my exercise up to get ready for the next season of football. I am really into football.”
His football coaches, as well as friends and family, were supportive in his decision to join the cheering team.
“Some guys were like, since I wasn’t going to do another sport, said might as well try cheering,” Umberhind said.
Umberhind isn’t the only football player on the cheering team. Dani Dulac, who is a junior, started playing on the football team this fall, but has been cheering all three years at Monmouth. She helped convince him to try cheering along with the rest of the team.
She also knows what it’s like to go into a sport that’s dominated by the opposite gender and having people question why you are on the team.
“It’s a way bigger team (in football), so I didn’t get to know everyone. I had some close friends,” Dulac said. “At first, they didn’t really talk to me and I was really shy because I didn’t know what I was really doing. Some would make comments sometimes, like girls can’t do football, or they would be like they are better than me. Some were really supportive and didn’t really see that I was the opposite gender.”
She said she enjoys football more than cheerleading because the newness for her hasn’t worn off yet.
They will share the same position like they did in football.
“He helped me with football and I was a back in cheering, too, where he is, so if he has questions he can ask me because we are in the same position in cheering too,” Dulac said.
For coach Shannon Fields, she’s excited what Umberhind can bring to the table when they set up their routine.
“The biggest thing is he’s going to really help with our stunts,” Fields said. “He’s going to make them really solid. It’s really exciting, one, to add numbers to our team, and two, knowing our stunts are going to improve so drastically with someone who’s so strong.”
The girls didn’t care if those bodies were another girl or a boy, they just knew they needed more of their classmates to be a part of the team.
“We want more boys on the team,” Dulac said. “We like diversity, and he’s good at it. Plus, most guys have muscles and stuff, so it’s really handy and Jake is really flexible, so it works out perfectly for him.”
Umberhind thought he would just be lifting up girls for their stunts, but that’s not the case. He will be asked to get his feet off the air too.
“When the coaches said do a cartwheel, I am like, I haven’t really done a cartwheel in a while,” Umberhind said. “That’s not what a football line guy does. So I was like ‘Okay, I will try it.’ I am almost able to do a cartwheel (now).”
The willingness to try anything has left an early impression on Fields because, unlike football, you can’t sit out a play, or in this case part of a routine.
“He actually has never complained,” Fields said. “He didn’t really hesitate, honestly. He kind of just took whatever we told him to do and he started learning. He has done everything that we have asked of him, he has never said no. That’s a really big thing in cheering because every single person plays a really big role in the team, and there are requirements for the routine for everybody to do a certain thing.”
Fields has remind herself she’s dealing was a new person to the sport and she finds herself catching herself being to technical sometimes for Jacob. She has had some of the upperclassmen help Jacob to catch up and learn certain aspects of cheering that most athletes have coming into high school cheering. The team got together over Thanksgiving break to work on things on their spare time.
Being apart of the line in football whether it’s the defensive or offensive line will help Umberhind with a cheering routine because both sports you have to be in sync with the rest of the teammates.
If you aren’t in sync you may cause a false start, jump off sides or in cheering cost points off the team’s score.
“It’s fast-paced,” Dulac said. “Football can be very fast, you have plays so you have certain jobs to do. Kind of like cheering, you do have certain jobs you have to do in cheering that you have to complete.”
Jacob Umberhind and Dani Dulac play football and cheer for the Monmouth Mustangs. (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)