Cheerleading squad prepares for season, national competition

A commonly debated topic is whether or not cheerleading is a sport.

As 20 UNA cheerleaders participate in numerous workout sessions and compete against other universities in cheer competitions, all while supporting other UNA sports on the sidelines year-round, the cheer squad feels it deserves respect.

“Some people just don’t realize the hours that go behind putting routines together,” said UNA head cheer coach Kim Bailey. “Since the beginning of the summer, they have worked out two days a week and have tumbling for two hours each week.”

The squad spends its summer preparing for cheer season, which lasts the remainder of the year, unlike most sports which have an offseason.

Bailey said in July her team practiced every day for one week, on top of workouts, in preparation for a tryout to receive a bid from the National Cheerleading Association’s national competition at the University of Louisville.

“These girls are working on a big goal,” Bailey said. “Not only are we preparing for nationals and focusing on our own goal, but we also have to prepare for football season and basketball season.”

Prior to October 2013, UNA had two separate cheer squads: The competition squad and the squad that cheers for athletics during games.

“When I came into UNA athletics with the cheer program, we wanted to bond the two squads,” Bailey said. “With them being separated, the unity wasn’t there. When we brought them together, we wanted to remind them we are a family and it’s been nothing but a positive experience since bringing them back.”

Bailey said one separating aspect of cheer from other sports is the lack of depth for replacing injured cheerleaders.

“If we have a girl out, we have to shift stunt groups and that’s huge,” Bailey said. “It’s not like we have a second string person ready to go. The whole routine changes and that can become taxing on the girls.”

Natalie Flanagan is the only senior returning to the cheer squad this season and said she would like to go out with a bang.

“A successful season for me would be team bonding,” Flanagan said. “I just want 19 best friends. I would like to go out being able to walk off that mat for the last time knowing I gave it my all.”

Flanagan said she believes cheerleading should be taken seriously as a sport.

“I feel like people need to walk in our shoes for a day,” Flanagan said. “I don’t think people from the outside actually see the work that we put in. We get hurt like any other athlete and have pain like other athletes go through. We have a passion for cheerleading and we love UNA.”

Flanagan said she would love to see other sports teams support the cheer squad, just as the cheer squad supports them.

“We want every single sport to bring home a championship,” Flanagan said. “With us competing this year, we need that support, too. It’s good to know that when we come home, someone will be proud of us.”

Sophomore Hailey House said it takes a positive attitude to make it through a long season.

“Of course this takes a lot of skill but a lot of this has to do with attitude,” House said. “Having a positive attitude is important because if you’re going to be negative, you’re not going to get anywhere.”