An institution at SMU- the cheerleading squad takes 2nd place at nationals
It was a bittersweet moment at the NCA College Nationals on April 10 for SMU cheerleading captain Kylie Callier.
The stunts: hit. The jumps: done. The baskets: tossed. The pyramid: solid.
All that was left was the dance. The squad nailed it.
“Coming off the floor after hitting a perfect routine at finals with some of my best friends; I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited in my whole life,” said Callier.
But this would be the last time Callier would take the floor with her teammates.
She knew then that in this final moment of her cheerleading career, there was no holding back; not even the giggle she let out as she finished the dance.
The SMU cheerleading squad placed 2nd at the 2015 NCA College Nationals in Daytona, Florida; making this the highest ranking season in school history.
“We competed in a new division this year. Everyone felt more successful in preparation for nationals so it wasn’t as stressful,” says Spirit Coordinator and head coach Tiffany Fettinger.
SMU cheerleading was first put on the map in the mid-1900s when squad member Lawrence Herkimer invented the Herkie and the pom-pon, started a cheerleading magazine called Megaphone, and formed the National Cheerleading Association.
Although Herkie’s legacy lives on, the program has come a long way.
“We focus a lot more now on gameday and looking our best,” said Fettinger.
The cheerleading squad is one team of 20 men and women. They are responsible for cheering at home and away football games, volleyball, mens and womens basketball, soccer, various tournaments, birthday parties, community events, and school-wide appearances.
“It’s nice to see them support the team on and off the field. The boulevard is a great way to build up fans spirits no matter what happens in the game,” said Cox student Nicole Weinmann.
In addition, the competition side is a whole other entity.
“Competition is such a small part of the program that gets a negative connotation because people think that’s all we care about,” said Fettinger.
Immediately after gameday and nationals seasons end, returning team members are required to re-tryout every spring.
The team already held 2015-2016 tryouts on April 17-18. The new squad consists of 13 returners and seven rookies.
“Almost every person came back (for tryouts). That has never happened since I’ve been on the team. It shows what kind of year we had,” said Callier.
For these returning cheerleaders, there is no off-season. It is immediately back to work.
The team begins their summer training in July at college camp where they practice and compete against 10 other teams for a bid to nationals.
Once school starts, the squad practices anywhere from six to ten hours a week, in addition to cheering at games.
“Its hard to say a day in the life (of a cheerleader) because every day is different,” said Callier.
“I had hives every day for two months and didn’t have any time to go to the doctor. I can’t plan anything until this is all over!” she said.
In her second year as team captain, Callier knows when it is her time to step in.
She describes her job as being a mediator between the team and the coach. In addition, she represents the squad on the student affairs leadership council.
“A lot of it is being a leader and being vocal about things but leading by example. I try to keep the team motivated, especially during competition season,” she said.
But Callier is not the only one with a strenuous workload. Life as an SMU cheerleader is definitely a balancing act. Football games take up entire Saturdays and tournaments take away entire weeks from school.
When it comes to school, it is up to the discretion of the teacher as to whether or not missing class for cheerleading is excused. However, Fettinger said it has never been an issue.
“I had to learn that procrastination was not my friend,” said first year cheerleader Colette Rushing.
Rushing is part of the cheerleading squad. A clarification that the Spirit program would like to acknowledge is the difference between the cheerleading squad and the pom squad.
“They share the element that they both cheer on the team on the sidelines. Outside of that, they don’t have much in common but their uniforms do look similar,” said Fettinger.
Pom in strictly dancing. They do different kinds of dance, all which involve technique and coordination. Cheerleading encompasses tumbling, stunting, jumping, motion technique, basket tosses and pyramids.
Another aspect the teams have in common is that they are not considered a sport through the university. Rather, the Sprit program, which encompasses both teams, as well as the mascot, is under a division of student affairs, which is funded through camps, fundraising, donations and the university.
“Its hard being in college and doing all the things we do and not getting the recognition that a lot of the other sports do,” said Callier.
The cheerleaders say that it is the experiences and the bond between the members that really make it all worthwhile.
“I want to represent the university well and for everyone to always be proud of what we put on national or at appearances,” said Fettinger.
“For them to be like, yeah, those are our cheerleaders.”