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Inside Athletics: Cheerleading

Cheerleaders+must+hold+onto+their+smiles%0Adespite+anything+that+may+happen.
Cheerleaders must hold onto their smiles
despite anything that may happen.

Cheerleaders must hold onto their smiles despite anything that may happen.

Shelby Guidry

Shelby Guidry

Cheerleaders must hold onto their smiles despite anything that may happen.

Hannah Blackburn, Reporter

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The University of South Alabama cheer squad rallies Jag Nation with every jump, backflip and push to the top of a pyramid. Much like those they cheer for from the sidelines, they are also athletes.

“I think it’s important that people know we are athletes too and we train just as hard as these other athletes,” head coach Bre Kucera said. “Each year we go to the NCA [National Cheer Association] competition in Daytona Florida, where we do sets against other NCAA schools. We prepare all season for that one competition.”

Controversy has surrounded cheerleading because Title IX, which states male and female programs must receive equal funding, does not include athletics that are co-ed. This is not a problem for Kucera.

“I am actually a little happy that Title IX doesn’t cover us,” Kucera said. “We wouldn’t be able to compete and cheer co-ed if we did. There would have to be a separate team for the males. But here at South, we are fortunately treated with the same respect that is given to other athletic programs.”

The program has different groups within it that form one team. There is the “pom team,” which are game-day cheerleaders on the sidelines. The other groups are the co-ed and all female acrobatic teams which are the ones who compete yearly in Division I groups. Lastly, there are the mascots, Southpaw and Miss Pawla, and they can qualify for the mascot national competition.

“Choosing mascots is a complex process, because we want to keep consistency,” Kucera said. “Our main goal is keeping the character. I was there when they brought back Miss Pawla, so I got to help recreate her character. Part of their training is that they know to act the same in suit. A lot of the acting in the suit is improv, and a lot of the people that do this are reserved, but when they get in that suit they show their true character.”

The cheer program does more than stand on the sideline; they are also active in the community by appearing in local events and charity fundraisers, which include camps for kids and participating in Relay for Life.

“When we choose who is on our team. We want them to know that they are representing our school and that it is important they have a strong community presence,” Kucera said.

“It can get tough at times, but overall it has been a very fun experience for me,” said fifth-year senior Danielle Aiken. “This was something I did in high school and wanted to do in college because I enjoy it so much. There is a lot of rigorous training and practice involved, but it really is worth it.”

To find out more about USA cheer, visit www.USAJaguars.com.

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Inside Athletics: Cheerleading