When most people hear the phrase “cheerleading,” they often envision a group of homogeneous girls—the “popular” types, who wave pom-poms and cheer at football games. This stereotype does not hold true for the University’s cheerleading team, UR Cheer. While at one point they were a traditional sidelining cheerleading team performing at soccer and basketball games, they have broken away to become a purely competitive team.
It all started with their very first competition at the Blue Cross Area, which yielded Wilburn and her teammates a first place victory. “It’s been a rough road… trying to transition from a sideline team to a competition team because of expectations,” Cheer President Jade Wilburn said.
Though they were still interested in performing at halftime and sidelining, the athletics department brought up concerns with this idea. The Department suggested that it would be too confusing to have the team perform at halftime, but not during the game to cheer. Thus, the team had to choose between performing at every halftime, or only competing. They chose the latter.
“We made a huge leap between cheering for other teams and doing it ourselves,” co-captain and PR/Recruitment Chair Yukako Ito explained.
UR Cheer is currently comprised of 14 members, including community members who do not attend UR. There are many minority groups represented on the team, as well as members of the Panhellenic, Multicultural, and, at one point, Interfraternal Greek communities.
Even among majors and disciplines, diversity exists. For example, Ito is majoring in computer science, with minors in business and dance; fellow Co-Captain and Club Sports Representative Tay Porter-Monroe is majoring in linguistics with a minor in Spanish; and President Jade Wilburn is pursuing a major in public health.
With differences often follows conflict, as the Cheer team is a prime example of how these variations can bring people together. “You get a sense of Rochester community on our team,” Wilburn said.
Involvement with the outside community allows members of UR Cheer to escape the campus bubble, fundraise for their team, and give back to the community. Namely, the team works at local competitions in the area and raises money every year for the Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester (BCCR). While the money raised for BCCR performs partly as a bonding activity for members, the money raised for the team contributes to basics such as gear.
To mitigate costs of uniforms, which cost upwards of $100, and special cheerleading shoes which cost around $50, UR Cheer applies for funding through SA. With their fundraising efforts and the aid of SA, the team has found a new home at Core Athletix on University Ave. This space is a much-needed improvement from the thin mats they previously worked with in Spurrier Hall.
The new gym has a spring floor and proper equipment for practices. Three times a week and for two hours each, UR Cheer holds practices at the facility, but getting there is a separate issue. The team often relies on the Orange Line to get them to practice, and even then, has to walk the extra distance to get to the gym. If anything, this journey brings the team closer together than they already are.
“I wouldn’t love the sport as much if I didn’t love my team,” Porter-Monroe said. “The memories we continuously get every year with the girls and guys who are fun to be around but also work really hard… makes you want to come to practice.”
The level of companionship within the group is truly exceptional, and can be attributed to great leadership. Head Coach Anna Rogers, an Associate Director at the UR Simon Business School and student at the UR Warner School of Education, conducts a leadership retreat every fall in order to set the tone for the year.
Not only do they speak about improvements with regard to the coach and the team, they also discuss expectations and goals for the year. While many of those goals focus on competition, Rogers emphasizes a strong awareness of mental health. “If you see someone struggling…it’s our responsibility to help them out,” Rogers said. This is the spirit of the squad, to help each other out. Within a stereotype with tendencies towards brattiness and homogeneity, UR Cheer sets a example for what a cheerleading team, or rather what a group of people, should be.
As for the future, the team hopes to return to nationals to compete in the “Reach the Beach” Competition, via the American Cheer and Dance Academy (ACDA). While they were present at the competition this year, they registered as an exhibition team and were not ranked. Despite not being ranked, the team received positive feedback overall.
Their biggest challenge with regards to nationals lies in the cost—it is a steep $25,000 fee. That’s why they have added another goal: to host a competition at the school, not only to raise awareness for their team, but also as a fundraiser and warm-up for Nationals. It’s clear that this team is ready for future nationals competitions, and deserves the UR community’s attention.