Last May, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community parents Benjalina and Juan Smith, Sr. decided they wanted their son Juan Smith, Jr., 7, to try out Pop Warner football, so they signed him up. While registering Juan, they saw the perfect opportunity to also sign up their three girls, Kassandra Montano-Smith, 10; Victoria Smith, 9; and Ariana Smith, 6, for cheerleading with the same organization, Superstition Pop Warner Football and Cheer.
The Superstition Pop Warner Football and Cheer program serves youth from cities around the Valley, teaching youth skills, physical and mental development, and a respect for rules of the game. It also teaches sportsmanship and fair play.
The Smith children started their fall sports season in August with practices four nights a week from 6 to 8:45 p.m. and gradually shorter practices as they started their games.
“You have to be dedicated as parents, because it is a lot of time for practices, then when the season starts it goes down to Tuesday and Thursdays and game days. A lot of their games are separate, and so a lot of the times we have to take two vehicles to split up to go to their games,” said Benjalina Smith.
Juan Jr. played Tiny Mite Tackle Football with other kids ages five to seven, playing on the Superstition Dukes team. The two younger girls, Victoria and Ariana, were on the Superstition Bandits cheerleading squad. The Bandits participated in the Arizona State Cheer Championships and won first place in their division.
The oldest, Kassandra, joined the Pee Wee Leprechauns cheer squad, where she learned competition cheerleading skills such as tumbling, cheering, dancing and stunts. The Leprechauns also competed in the Arizona State Cheer Championships, winning first place in the Pee Wee II division. The group qualified to go on to the Wescon Regional Cheer Championships in November in Long Beach, California, where they competed against 13 other cheer teams and left with fourth place. Fellow Arizona team Pee Wee Strikers took second place, giving them the opportunity to go to Florida for the national Pop Warner Cheer & Dance Championships.
“Cheerleading was fun. I made a lot of friends and I can’t wait to go back next year,” said Kassandra. “I hope the Strikers win in Florida.”
The Smith Family would like to thank their family and friends for all the support they have given them as they raised money to help Kassandra participate in the Wescon Regional Cheer Championships. The family held food sales and received donations to help pay for fees and for the family to attend and help cheer on their little cheerleader.
“Now that they are getting older, we wanted them to be in something so they are not getting into trouble, and also keep them active,” said Benjalina Smith. “There are a lot of health risks that run in our families, and we want them to be healthy. We look forward to next season and watching them as they learn and perfect their sports.”