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Lyndsi Grose
Professor John Chrisman
ENC 1102
6 April 2015
Unit 4 Assignment
Introduction
Almost everyone has participated in a discourse community at one point of their
life or another. Some for shorter periods of time, some for longer. There also are different
levels of involvement. This being said, I can look retrospectively at the discourse
communities that I have personally been a part of in my past, and one seems to be the
most substantive. Through several years of practice and a great amount of involvement, I
chose to analyze and review the community of cheerleading. Starting since I was in first
grade, I have been an active member and still consider myself to be involved in several
different ways today. I have participated through all aspects of cheerleading, in the AllStar level traveling across the United States, High-School level at Hagerty High all four
years, as a coach, trainer, and even going back to previous teams as a motivator and
giving experienced advice. Many people have participated in sports throughout their
lives, so it is definitely relatable, especially when people have grown up playing or being
an active member of a sport, or discourse community. For this assignment, I will
specifically use the example and discuss my involvement in the varsity cheerleading
squad at Hagerty High because I participated all four years and took the leading position
as captain my senior year. I feel as if I am very qualified and well informed on the

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community, and would like to take a look from a deeper perspective into things that have
not previously been researched and discussed.
Looking at my community, not too much research has been done. I believe partly
because cheerleading is still an emerging and upcoming sport, and as most everyone
knows, there is such controversy on whether or not cheerleading is actually an approved
athletic sport. For the goals of this project, I plan to analyze cheerleading in a different
way, through the use of genres and viewing main aspects through significant lenses.
Although there are several genres that can be discussed in cheerleading, such as physical
discussion boards/social media groups, skills charts, or non-physical meetings, I believe
that the most important one would be the new member packet distributed at the beginning
of each season. Not only does it give a set expectation and layout for each season, it also
creates an identity for each team that carries on all throughout each year. Through all my
connections and topics throughout this paper, I plan to answer the following question:
What kind of identity does the new member packet value and how does it
influence those who choose to embody or adapt to that identity?
What exactly are Discourse Communities, Lenses, and Genres?
Discourse Community what exactly does this mean? This term is most recently
studied by John Swales, a professor of linguistics and codirector of the Michigan Corpus
of Academic Spoken English at the University of Michigan (Wardle and Downs 215). He
defines a discourse community as a group of people that have goals and purposes that use
communication to achieve these. Discourse literally meaning written or spoken
communication, and community as a group of people with similar interests. In his article,

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The Concept of Discourse Community, he gives the reader six criteria that prove a
community to be a discourse community. He says that a discourse community:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

Has a broadly agreed set of common public goals


Mechanisms of intercommunication among its members
Uses participatory mechanisms primarily to provide information and feedback
Possesses one or more genres
Has some specific lexis
Has a threshold level of members (Swales 220-222).
When looking at cheerleading, I know that this community meets all of Swales

criteria. As a whole, the goal is always to work together as a team to succeed at


everything we do, especially winning competitions. We have several mechanisms of
intercommunication including but not limited to text groups, Remind101, social media
closed groups, emails, and even the very personal team meetings. There is definitely an
exchange of information and feedback that constantly is active. As teammates, we give
each other tips or different ways to do stunts or tumbling skills. Our coach would be the
primary authority under the exchange of information. The different genres of
cheerleading could be newsletters, social media websites, practices, or magazines. Most
specifically the new member packet. When looking at all the different lexis that occurs in
cheerleading, there could be a dictionary full of words that non-cheerleaders would
probably not understand correctly. Examples could be things like elevator, liberty, heel
stretch, squish, full, and so much more. Lastly, Swales says that a discourse community
contains stratified membership throughout. Like I mentioned before, I started out as a
novice knowing nothing, then through my experience I gained much more knowledge,
eventually becoming an expert. It is essential to have this in a community that way there
is a flow and balance of experts and novices, making the community stronger.

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What is a genre, you may ask? According to our textbook Writing About Writing:
A College Reader by Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs, genres are types of texts that
are recognizable to readers and writers, and the meet the needs of the rhetorical situations
in which they function (216). Genres throughout my community are plentiful, even
though they might not be obvious. In cheerleading, we use several differnet genres every
day. We use genres such as social media groups for communication, monthly newsletters
for parents and cheerleaders, the skills chart to keep everyone up to par on their skills,
and most importantly we obtain the new member packet at the beginning of each season.
Looking past discourse community and deeper into the actual genres of each, we
can look at a relevant article written by Ann Johns, a popular linguist. She looks at
discourse communities, the concept from Swales, and analyzes the concept a little bit
deeper. Overall, she gives the reader a couple different lenses to look at discourse
communities through. These lenses consist of authority, values, identity, cost, change
over time, and gatekeeping. When using the example of my genre, the new member
packet, I am able to use Johns lenses to analyze more thoroughly. For the sole purpose of
this assignment, I will not use all lenses to analyze my genre, but rather stick to a single
one; Identity.
Discussion on Identity (Lit. Review)
As I had stated earlier, there is not an extensive amount of direct research that
deals with cheerleading. So, I conducted most of my research on the factors that I found
most important in cheerleading and my selected genre. I looked into the multiple
definitions of identity, how identity is created in different discourse community, how
identity has changed in different scenarios, and so on. I looked for sources directly related

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to cheerleading as well, and found one or two, but most were not related to my topics that
I was looking for. The first piece of information I became familiarized with was written
by James Paul Gee, author of Identity as an Analytical Lense for Research in
Education. This article really gave me a new idea of what identity really is. Gee first
explains identity, but he makes it clear that he is not simply looking at the definition of
identity, but rather examining how it can be used as an analytic tool for studying
important issues of theory and practice in education (100). This was important because I
was looking to apply his definitions to my discourse community and practices. He shows
the reader that we can use identity as a lens to view people and groups of people. He also
gives some really great insight into the different ways that identity can arise, four of them
including nature-identity, institution-identity, discourse-identity, and affinity-identity
(100). We are not limited to viewing just one of the four identities, but they can co-exist
together as well. Gee says specifically, these four perspectives are not separate from
each other (101). Nature-identity is essentially created although a person has never done
or accomplished anything (101). That signifies the nature behind the identity; it just
seemed to have naturally been created and recognized. Institution-identity is described by
Gee through his example of him being a professor at a university. He says The process
by which this power works is authorization; that is, laws, rules, traditions, or principles of
various sorts allow the authorities to author (101). The next perspective Gee allows the
reader to look into is discourse-identity. He explains the source of this as the power
that determines it or to which my friend is subject- is the discourse or dialogue of other
people (103). Lastly, we view the affinity-identity. Gee says here one must actively
choose to join (106).

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When doing research, I found one very useful secondary source that was exactly
what I was looking for. The perfect source of information to me would have been one that
has to do with identity and cheerleading as a whole (which was very difficult to find,
might I add). I came across an article written by Amy Moritz, titled Cheerleading: Not
just for the sidelines anymore. One thing that Moritz said really caught my eye, and I
find it a very vital piece of information from her article to apply to my own. In her
conclusion she said, Cheerleaders have embraced a venue where they can blend and
engage with multiple identities ranging from traditional feminine markers of fashion and
sexuality to traditional masculine makers of fierce athletic competition (668). I think
that this is vital when thinking about identity in this discourse community because it is
important to understand that there isnt just one specific type of identity for a cheerleader,
or any athlete in general.
Genre Analysis (Data)
I chose to look at a specific genre within my discourse community: The new
member packet. It is introduced at the beginning of every year during the first
cheerleading meeting. This meeting is held for anyone who has passed tryouts and is now
considered a cheerleader on the varsity team. Breaking it down into sections, there are a
few major parts that make up the packet. These are the expectations for the upcoming
season, expected costs, calendar, and contact information. The expectations that are
presented in the new member packet basically outline characteristics that each
cheerleader must meet in order to maintain and withhold their spot on the team. There are
certain basic skills that are necessary in order to be on the team (which most athletes
already have if they have passed tryouts), a GPA requirement that must be sustained

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throughout the season, and also certain disciplinary expectations. As a member of the
squad, we are expected to act in a certain appropriate way. For example, no inappropriate
social media posts are allowed, and we are expected to stay out of any disciplinary
trouble at school. If we were to get in trouble at school (i.e detention, or referrals) we
would get demerits, which would eventually lead to dismissal off the team. The next part
of the new member packed is the expected costs. This basically outlines all the monetary
costs, such as uniforms, competitions, or practice wear that will all be included in the
final cost of the season. Also, the athletes are required to put in a lot of time and effort
when participating with the team, so that is a cost for them as well. The following part of
the packet is the calendar. For example, for the weekly calendar, it may say (depending
on the season) Practices will be held right after school on Mondays, Wednesdays, and
Fridays from 2:45-5. Upon the discretion of the coach, athletes may also be subject to
come in before school for practices additionally. The yearly calendar presents all the
times and dates for any events that the cheerleader will have to be required to attend. This
includes practices and times, school events, sporting events, charity events, and
competitions. This is especially helpful to have all the dates already planned and laid out
for us that way we can plan in advance. Last, there is a list of all contact information that
we will need. This includes coaches, team moms, athletic directors, etc. Basically anyone
we should ever need to get in touch with at any time during the season. All of the factors
of the new member packet relate directly to identity because the packet essentially
outlines who the athletes have to be, athletically, socially, academically, and so forth.
When looking tediously for sources involving anything about cheerleading, I
came across a published book titled Go! Fight! Win! Cheerleading in American Culture

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written by Mary Ellen Hansen. She talks about cheerleading as an emerging sport,
cheerleading provides an athletic outlet as well as a focus for school and community
identity (Hansen 120). Hansen explains how cheerleaders create an identity for
themselves and are often even role models for many different groups of people. Not only
have cheerleaders become very athletic individuals accustomed to hard work and
discipline, having better general body awareness, and usually superior body control (89),
but they have created a positive identity for themselves in several different cases.
After finding a few different sources, I finally decided to conduct a direct
interview with the current Hagerty High School cheerleading captain Amanda Moberg. In
this interview, I asked her how she viewed identity and how she thought identity was
portrayed through the use of the new member packet. She told me, Some of the larger
physically aspects that identify us as cheerleaders besides our uniform is wearing our
huge bow in our hair and the tall white socks with our white cheerleading shoes. We
generally always look uniform by wearing the same practice clothing and the same
backpacks to games and competitions. These are aspects that a person may be able to
use to differentiate a cheerleader from a different athlete, per say. I asked her other
similar questions regarding the identity as an individual, as a team, as a squad in the
school, and throughout our city. During this interview, Amanda made a really great point
that I would like to point out. She said, Not only have we been named back to back state
champions and 2014 national champions, we have also won many leadership and
sportsmanship awards. We tend be the team that cheers with and for other teams in and
out of our division, and we try to spread positivity across the sport of cheerleading as a
whole. As a previous member of this squad, I think that our past achievements have

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really contributed to our identity as a whole. We have won several titles across the board
of our different competitions, so therefore our identity has grown in several ways. We
became more recognized in our school, in our town, and in the cheerleading community
as well. Several people have come to think of HHS Cheerleaders as positive, encouraging
individuals who lead by example. This is due to our accomplishments, and our rules and
goals outlined in the new member packet each year.
I believe that the team created their identity through all of the expectations, not
only skill wise but academically as well. We created a reputation at our school to be welleducated and classy girls with high GPAs and little to no disciplinary history. I truly
believe that because of the set expectations outlined in the packets at the beginning of the
year, we knew what was expected of us and could use it as a reference for the whole
season. We also created an identity to be known as very involved and well-trained
athletes. We practiced several times a week, sometimes even twice a day (before school
and after), which was also outlined in the packet. Also, several of our team members
participated in other sports at our school.
Conclusion
Overall, I think that after looking at all the linguists who have given us a clear
sense of identity, and after my analysis of the new member packet genre we can easily
recognize how big of a role it plays in constructing the teams identity as a whole. With
the help of Swales and his classifying a discourse community, Johns and her use of the
lense of identity, and Wardle and her help of an activity system, we were able to get a
base understanding of what a discourse community is, how it functions, and its different
aspects and genres. Then, Gee gave us an understanding of what identity is and how it

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can be applied to different practices in communities. After explaining what the new
member packet is, it is easy to see how it would play a role in creating identity through
the HHS Varsity cheerleading squad. It creates organization throughout the season, as
well as expressed expectations and requirements to be a part of the squad. These aspects
all come into play creating our own personal identity as a team member, as well as a
bigger identity as a whole squad in an even bigger community.

Works Cited (MLA)

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Downs, Doug. Wardle, Elizabeth. Framing the Reading. Writing About Writing: A
College Reader. 2nd ed. Eds. Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs. Boston:
Bedford/St. Martins, 2014. 216. Print.
Gee, James Paul. Identity as an Analytical Lens for Research in Education. Review of
Research in Education, (2000-2001): 99-125. Print.
Hackman, Kim. Hagerty Cheer New Member Packet. 2013-2014. Print.
Hansen, Mary Ellen. Go! Fight! Win!: Cheerleading in American Culture. Bowling
Green: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1995. Print.
Johns, Ann M. Discourse Communities and Communities of Practice: Memberships,
Conflict, and Diversity. Writing about Writing: A College Reader. 2nd ed. Eds.
Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, 2014. 273-83.
Print.
Moberg, Amanda. Personal Interview. 18 March 2015. Email.
Moritz, Amy. Cheerleading: Not just for the sidelines anymore. Sport in Society:
Cultures, Commerce, Media, Politics. Ed. Routledge. New York: Taylor and
Francis Group, 2011. 660-669. Print.
Swales, John. The Concept of Discourse Community. Writing about Writing: A College
Reader. 2nd ed. Eds. Elizabeth Wardle and Doug Downs. Boston: Bedford/St.
Martins, 2014. 466-80. Print.