Photo courtesy of www.wcupagoldenrams.com.
You can already imagine it: Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019, tailgates open with cold sodas in hand, booming drums from the marching band, helmets and shoulder pads lining up on the turf and on the edge of the field, you can see pom poms and hairbows. Sometimes overlooked, the cheerleading squad keeps the energy of a football game all the way until the last quarter—but what else do they do?
Cheerleading often doesn’t stop after the last playoff game, and it doesn’t start when football camp starts either. “It’s funny that you ask about our season,” says Ryan Link, a second-year student on the cheerleading squad. “I joke that it really never ends.”
The cheerleading season begins in May with tryouts. From there, the team anticipates travel to the University of Scranton for a Universal Cheerleading Association camp. Like many other athletes, cheerleaders move into their college dorms a week early for all day, everyday practice coached by those from UCA.
“Fridays before home games, the team decorates the football locker room,” says Link. The cheerleading team cheers for home and away football games in the fall, and home games for basketball—both men’s and women’s—in the winter and spring months and one competition in the spring.
The squad practices two days per week for three hours. “First, we warm up all of our stunts and pyramids. Then, we usually practice our game day cheers. Our practices are broken down depending upon what we need to improve,” says Link. “On Mondays, we tumble after practice for an additional two hours. We lift two times a week and have mandatory mile runs to complete by a certain time each week.”
The 2018-2019 cheerleading team went to UCA college “Game Day” on ESPN for the first time ever on Jan. 18-20 in Orlando, Florida. The team qualified in the preliminary rounds, earning them a place in the finals, where they placed ninth out of 22 teams in their division. Planning to attend again in 2020, they hope to place higher than last year.
The cheerleading season entails more than just sharp choreography and losing your voice to cheer over the fans. West Chester University’s cheerleading team interacts with the community throughout the entire season.
Purple and gold was represented at the town of West Chester’s annual chili cook-off. Pictured wearing hats shaped like peppers, it seems like the cheerleaders had lots of fun doing it.
Seasonally, the cheerleaders entertain with stunts, cheers and tumbling as families wait to trick-or-treat with their little ones at OJR High School during Trick-or-Treat night. As the weather gets colder, you can find the cheerleaders bundled up at the annual giving tree event. Last year, it was hosted in Killinger Hall; Santa Clause and his elves were in attendance, being photographed and helping make winter crafts.
“Our schedule can change within an hour’s notice, so you have to be connected to your team and coach at all times,” says Link.
Link gushes about the impact cheerleading has had on his life. “Cheerleading to me is much more than a sport, it’s a community of like-minded individuals who want to see the best in everyone they meet,” says Link. “It is the one sport where gender, sexual orientation or race does not matter; you will be accepted for who you are.”
The cheerleading squad works very hard to maintain their busy schedule and entertain everywhere they go. The squad anticipates a lively season for 2019-2020.
Kirsten Magas is a fourth-year student majoring in English with minors in journalism and creative writing. KM867219@wcupa.edu