The West Chester University Cheerleaders use their agility, and school spirit while chanting, dancing and stunting to the rhythms of their own rhymes.
The three word chants, 24 count dances, and elevated pyramids are only half of the athletic responsibility of a WCU cheerleader. The year-round spirit motivators are humanitarians for the community, and teachers to local high school cheerleaders.
The WCU cheerleaders also have part time jobs, and extracurricular activities aside from their morning workouts, afternoon practices and the main course, cheering alongside their football and basketball teams. WCU cheerleaders endure a demanding lifestyle which qualifies the cheerleaders as the most influential group of female athletes on campus. The demands begin with a year-round schedule which starts at a pre-season summer cheer camp.
Every year in the summer, the members of the West Chester cheer squad head to Scranton, Pa. for cheerleading camp, where the members learn the curriculum for the upcoming season. However, this year was a little different, the cheerleaders spent the long two-a-days in the gym on campus.
“We wanted to focus on our needs,” Jess Peifly, the captain of the squad, said in a phone interview.
A home cheer camp was best equipped for the squad considering they were gaining five new members, the squad needed to focus on incorporating new material to a new squad. The three day home camp with members of Universal Cheerleading Association helped WCU cheerleaders bond and learn new stunts and cheers. Each day the cheer members ate breakfast at 7 a.m. A lunch break was provided, but the mornings and afternoons kept the squad busy. The UCA staff members worked on chants, snap motions and stunting.
“West Chester does not allow stunts where contact is lost,” Peifly said. The team works on stunts that always involve every member of the stunt group touching. Peifly explained a collegiate cheer level stunt where the flier, or person at the top of the pyramid, never loses contact with her lower level pyramid members. The stunt, called “A frame,” involves one flier, two mids (who stand on the right and left sides of the stunt), and a back spot who stands behind the flier. On count, the girls dip to toss the flier into a headstand, where she then flips on her feet into the hands of the mids.
Aside from stunts, the squad worked on various ways to crowd lead, stiff strong motions, new dances and cheers to encourage their teams. After the three day camp is over the girls continue practice in order to perfect their squad.
Each practice brings the squad closer to perfection. It is vital that the team remains healthy and in shape for a strenuous season.
“We need leg strength, flexibility and body control,” Peifly said. In order to have successful stunting and energetic strong movement, the girls must practice twice a week and have workouts twice a week in the morning. The cheer members run the track and weight train in order to keep their bodies apt for a extensive season.
“We are one of the few teams that cheers for all teams, both mens and womens basketball and both home and away football games,” Piefly said.
Practice, training and games are only half of the responsibility; the squad take time out aside from school and cheer priorities to give back to the community.
Last Sunday, the squad held a clinic for Governor Mifflin, a nearby high school, in which WCU cheerleaders taught the high school cheer squad new cheers, stunts and dances for their competition. The squad holds clinics at various schools in the West Chester community regularly. The West Chester cheerleaders participated in the “Breast Cancer Zeta Tau Alpha Walk.”
Members of the squad also are involved in sororities, and some are in the honor college at the University.
“Even though we don’t compete, our team is certainly dedicated like other athletes. We also have a sense of community within our team,” Peifly said. People will often see cheerleading as not a sport if they don’t compete, but WCU Cheerleaders are listed under “Athletics” and not as a club. When referring to WCU Cheerleaders, they not only have spunky attitudes and illuminating smiles, but they are also strong, motivated, school spirit leaders.
Dominique Perry is a fifth-year student majoring in professional studies and minoring in journalism and studio art. She can be reached at DP633925@wcupa.edu.