Updated: Nov 30, 2021
Born in a family where cheerleading is held in the highest regard, where her mom has 30 years of cheerleading coaching experience and owns her own cheer gym, Brooke Kratchman was destined to be a dominant cheerleader.
“I knew how to do a cartwheel when I learned how to walk,” Brooke said.
She started to competitively cheerlead at age 3 and has been a part of multiple teams, such as American Elite, Pacific Coast MAGIC and California Allstars. She also made the varsity team as a first-year student and has won four state cheer championships at Shadow Mountain High School.
“Cheerleading provides a lot of stability in my life,” she said. “It's kind of a safe zone to get away from school, drama and everything else that's just so hectic. It's a place to go and a place to release.”
Throughout her life, students at her middle and high school have bullied Brooke, which she believes is rooted in “jealousy.” Students attacked her on social media, wrote stuff on bathroom mirrors and stalls about her and even threw things at her in the hallway. When she told teachers and assistant principals about it, they didn’t believe her.
“Overcoming that was kind of a struggle,” she said. “It was (a) very long journey, especially (since people) didn't really believe what was happening. I never was the first to hear about it. I always had to hear through the grapevine, which was always hard.”
“It hurts my heart,” said Kari Kratchman, who is Brooke’s mother and the coach of the Shadow Mountain cheerleading team. “We talk in length with the kids at the beginning when they make the team (about) how to handle themselves, communicate (and) to do what they can to not give people reasons to attack them or feel a certain way.”
Despite the negativity, Brooke was able to find an outside counselor that helped her navigate those situations and figure out coping mechanisms to overcome bullying. She also focused on her schoolwork during the pandemic. The pandemic changed what would usually be a fun and memorable senior year to a modified version.
Brooke and her mom met with the school’s counselor, and they mapped out how Brooke could finish high school faster. She took three summer school classes, gave up her half days in the first semester to be a full-time student and is taking an extra class at Paradise Valley Community College. As a result, she graduates in December and, after trying out for the team, will attend Trinity Valley Community College as a member of its cheer program.
“My hard work finally paid off,” she said. “I'm kind of in my prime for cheerleading, and I think it's just a good start. The more I think about it, the more I realize I don't really need to finish off high school.”
Brooke is a leader of the Matadors’ cheer squad, where she impacts the team on and off the floor. She has hosted and driven her fellow teammates to open gyms for extra workouts to ensure they were prepared for competitions. She is that calming presence that keeps the team organized and focused.
“She’s a good leader,” sophomore Mya Taylor said. “When she's not at games, it's weird. We're all over the place, (but) when Brooke’s there, we actually know what we're doing.”
At school, Kari and Brooke try to distinguish between when they are mom and daughter and when they are coach and cheerleader. While Brooke worked to be on the varsity team, she had to prove to other students that she made the team on her own merit, not because her mom is the coach. Kari dealt with a similar situation when Brooke’s oldest sister, McKenzie, was at Shadow Mountain.
“It can be a little rocky,” Kari said. “We try really hard to have boundaries at practice and at home. They have the highest skill sets, and they have worked really hard their whole lives to be accomplished athletes at what they do, but people are going to say what they're going to say.”
With a strong family foundation and support from her friends, Brooke is ready for her next challenge at Trinity Valley. Although it will be her first time living on her own, she has relationships with coaches and cheerleaders at the school, so she is eager for the opportunity.
“I've overcome a lot of things that I didn't think I was going to be able to overcome,” she said. “Obviously, I've had a lot of adults help me along that way, but I'm still very proud of myself and I inspire myself every day to push myself.”
Derrian Carter is a graduate student pursuing a master's degree in sports journalism, who is enrolled in MCO 502 – Journalism Skills at Arizona State University. Email Derrian at: firstname.lastname@example.org.