Like any other college team, these athletes spend countless hours practicing, executing
their plays perfectly, risking injury and endorsing school spirit in a vigorous battle for pride.
But this team isn’t egocentric. It also fights and rallies for other sports teams, sacrificing its time and energy in hopes of boosting school spirit – and Temple’s cheerleading squad has no problem with that.
Cheerleading is no longer about short skirts, giant pom-poms or looking
pretty, according to sophomore biology major and cheerleader Terrie Casper. It’s about long hours of bruise-filled practices, a teamwork effort of dedication, risky stunts and daring gymnastics. While practicing a minimum of eight hours a week, working, attending classes and performing at every home football and men’s basketball game, as well as several away games, it may be difficult for the cheerleading squad to find time to catch some Zs.
“I can’t count the number of times where I said to Terrie, ‘I had two hours of sleep last night,'” sophomore Grace Barletta said.
“I never have a good rest, because after practice I’m tired but I have so much energy.”
Sleep deprivation only partially demonstrates the amount of sacrifice cheerleaders must make in order to be competitive. Sprained ankles and wrists are common, but once in a while, the unexpected happens. According to the National Center
for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research,
cheerleaders are five times more likely to be injured than gymnasts.
Cheerleading and gymnastics are the riskiest activities among all other female sports combined.
“Last year a girl fell from a three-layer pyramid,” tourism and hospitality major Mike King said. “Her elbow contacted someone’s eye and they both had stitches.”
When accidents like these occur, stunts are reviewed by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. King said that because of rules and regulations, cheerleaders are held back from performing to the best of their abilities. Along with enduring physical aches, Temple’s squad must bear the pain of having a limited social life. Their Halloween night will be spent preparing a tape for United Cheerleading Association tournaments,
held annually throughout the winter.
“While everyone is home for Christmas break, we don’t get a Christmas break. It will be like two days,” said King, who is one of five male cheerleaders. “Or a spring break, when we’re at the Atlantic Ten [Conference] tournament.”
With all the sacrifice the squad makes, it also copes with the drawbacks of supporting a team with a losing record. It wasn’t easy for Barletta to watch the football team lose 62-0 in two consecutive games earlier this season.
“We know that that they try really hard,” Barletta said. “After the Buffalo game, it was heartbreaking to see them walk off the field.” So how does one stay positive and peppy? Junior cheerleader Krista Booth said she thinks about the future.
“The athletes have wonderful talent and people get drafted every year for the NBA and NFL,” she said. “It’s more of a personal reason. I want to see them succeed.”
It may be tough performing at a losing game, but is it is a tougher job gaining support from the crowd.
“People walk into the games thinking they’re going to lose,” Casper said. “We need more positive attitude.”
Cheerleaders and fans have a special relationship. They work together to support and motivate the athletes. Casper said that compared to the opponent’s crowd, Temple’s
crowd is low in attendance.
“We want people at the game as much as the football players,” she said. “We need crowd involvement.”
“It makes us feel like we have so much more work to do to get [the players] motivated,”
King said. “It’s boring when the crowd is not there.”
When the crowd is large and active, the cheerleaders are inspired to perform more stunts. Their most impressive stunt is the basket toss, when four males toss one female about 50 feet into the air while she does a back flip.
“We think that if we perform well, they will want to come and see us and that will bring in fans,” Casper said. Feeling hopeless, fans often leave before
the game ends. But rain or shine, win or lose, the cheerleaders put on a smiling face and continue to perform. In desperate need of motivation, Temple’s mascot, Hooter, lifts their spirits by walking over and giving them a pat on the back. Erik Johnson, a junior human resources
major, has played Hooter since his freshman year.
“The more people there are present at games, it is easier and a lot more fun,” Johnson said. Alumni have also expressed their gratitude, and young children have shown their love toward the cheerleaders.
“Even when the team lost, they still come over and tell us that we looked good and did well,” Barletta said. “Little kids at football games bring their shirts and ask us to sign them,” Casper said.
For the love of competition, and showing
support and pride for their school, these cheerleaders will never give up the sport.
Anne Ha can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.