Crawford, the cheerleading adviser for Thousand Oaks, stood before three dozen gum-chewing, pompon-rustling, giggling and whispering girls. She ran down a long list of reminders, suggestions, commitments and entreaties. On the chalkboard at the head of the room, a much-amended schedule showed a month of school sporting events, most of which were expected to include cheerleading. The girls sat, smacked, rustled and gossiped.
"Girls, be quiet!" Crawford said. "I'm worried about JV volleyball. . . . Why do you feel no obligation to cover volleyball? What do we tell the girls' volleyball team? That we just can't be bothered?"
Finally the adviser got what she wanted, and the varsity, sophomore and freshman squads were dispatched to sign-painting and routine practicing. All the signs were for Friday night's football game, and catchy slogans were needed.
"Welcome to Thousand Oaks. Now go home," suggested Jackie Peacock, a 17-year-old senior and one of the 13 varsity cheerleaders.
"Traditionally," said Kari Gonzales, a 15-year-old sophomore cheerleader, "we had a better football team than they did. And they were jealous."
Others suggested hard feelings because the 29-year-old Thousand Oaks campus has its own stadium. The 11-year-old Westlake campus does not, though a stadium is in the works, and Westlake athletes sometimes share Thousand Oaks High's facilities.
"I don't know why people think they're so rich," Peacock said. "They don't have a pool, either." She again bent over her sign-painting.
"The only problem I have," said Crawford, speaking of the squad, "is when they try to use something from "The Simpsons." What Bart can say on television is not necessarily what my cheerleaders can say in their signs."
Crawford, who graduated from Thousand Oaks High in 1977, took over the squad this year.
"I cheered in college, so I knew what I was in for," she said with a sigh. "What I have been surprised at is the amount of time that is expected from the girls. We cover boys' and girls' sports. If you put together all three squads, we run between six and 12 games a week."
And the investment, Crawford said, goes far beyond volunteering time. Many football players are asked to contribute about $100 toward the cost of their uniforms and equipment, and the booster club and athletic programs usually cover the rest. But each Thousand Oaks cheerleader puts in more than $800 to pay for different outfits for basketball and football, shoes, stools, jackets and transportation to games, among other things.
During football season, the spending gap gets wider: By tradition, the cheerleaders buy the players treats every week--sunflower seeds, gum, candy, baked goods.
And for some, there can be other sacrifices.
"This is not my real voice," Niki Zewe, 16, said in a raspy whisper. She hasn't sounded like herself since she went hoarse at a basketball game against Westlake nine months before, she said. She has nodules on her vocal cords.
"They're going to go in and laser them off," she said. "I did too much from my throat and not my diaphragm."
The surgery is scheduled for the next Friday. Nevertheless, she said, she'd be out there with the squad on Friday night, hip-flouncing, pyramid-building--and lip-syncing.
WEDNESDAY: Gaming and the game.
A few years ago, when the California Lottery was still on the drawing board, many of its opponents complained that there was something unseemly in supporting school programs with gambling money.
Those people should never visit Westlake High School on a Wednesday night.
"I-19. I-19," intoned a dull male voice on the school cafeteria's public address system, and a lighted game board flashed on the wall above the room. Smoke curled ceilingward from scores of cigarettes, 150 hands daubed at cardboard squares with oversized felt pens, and among the committed bingo players at the lunch tables, scarcely a word was spoken.
This was at 7 p.m., still early in the evening, and the Westlake High School Support Assn. was celebrating its seventh anniversary. It was Halloween night, and the crowd of players was a bit smaller than usual, but at a minimum of $12 a head and an average of about $50 per person per night, those players were still contributing substantially to the football team, the band, the choir and various other activities of Westlake High School.
The Westlake bingo game is run by volunteers from various school programs. But the players, mostly women in their 40s and beyond, often have no connection to the campus but bingo. The revenues are shared under a complex system that takes into account both the number of students in a program and the volunteer hours donated through each program. While the bingo players sat silent, daubers in their right hands, cigarettes in their left, coaches and parents circulated in aprons, selling additional cards.