Cheerleading was never something I considered doing, especially at a school like Emerson College where athletics is often overshadowed. Little did I know that joining the cheer team would make my freshman year so enjoyable, even though half the school didn’t know the team existed. Here’s what it’s really like cheering at a Division Three School.
Cheering at a Division Three school is not as popular as it is at bigger universities and institutions. Emerson is also not a school that’s known for its athletics department. The majority of the student body would rather go to a theatrical performance or act in one, rather than go to a basketball or baseball game.
The cheerleading team focuses on bridging the gap between athletics and the student body. We try our best to go to other events that aren’t sports games to get other organizations on campus involved in what we do.
In recent years, the cheerleading team has gained a lot of footing when it comes to getting more people to come to the games. Although the crowd may be small, it’s still great to have people in the stands supporting their classmates and peers.
Sports have always been something I am super passionate about, and I was a dancer for many years, so I figured cheerleading would be a great way to combine both things. At first, I was really nervous that I wouldn’t be good enough to make the squad. As every person does in a time of stress, I underestimated myself immensely and was way more intimidated than I should have been.
The Emerson Cheerleading Team hold tryouts at the beginning of every semester. There is no set number of people that can be on the squad, which is a perk of going to a Division Three school.
The tryout process was definitely not as rigorous as it probably is at other institutions. I went in expecting to have to perform at a highly competitive level, but I was very wrong. Everything was relaxed and laid back, no one was expecting everyone to be able to pull out crazy stunts or tricks.
The captains began by teaching us basic motions and jumps, which was all new to me, as I had never cheered before. We then went on to learn a few 8-counts of a routine, and I was extremely thankful that I could pick up choreography pretty well.
After learning everything, they had us perform in small groups. This was probably the most intimidating part, especially knowing that all eyes are practically on you. I am not a competitive person, but at that moment I felt like I had to fight for my spot on the team.
A few hours after tryouts concluded I received an email from the captains offering me a spot on the team. I was relieved, excited, and nervous all in one, and that’s where my cheerleading journey began.
I’d say one of the biggest things that separate a Division Three team from a Division One team is the practice schedule. Practices are held twice a week, sometimes three depending on when our performances are scheduled. Each practice lasts about two hours where we do stretching, conditioning, and of course our halftime routines.
We usually start off by chatting about our days as we put our shoes on and prepare for warm-ups. We don’t have a strict schedule which makes it way more social and less rigorous. Warm-ups are normally short and consist of basic stretching and moving. Usually, after stretching we’ll go right into our routine. In the early parts of the season, the whole practice is dedicated to learning the routine. Once we have the basic choreography, we learn our spots and then focus on cleaning the routine.
Towards the end of the season, practices get easier and easier. By then we have the dance almost perfect and have been performing it regularly, so we spend a lot of time just dancing around and having fun.
Practice has a great social aspect to it because we don’t all see each other every day. At the end of the week, practice is a nice way to take a break from our stress and just hang out with our friends, while doing something we love.
Since we are cheerleading at a Division Three school, it’s up to us as a team to schedule our practices and performances. We do not have a coach so the captains really run the show. If there is a weekend where the majority of us can’t be at a game, we won’t perform. It’s nice to know that there isn’t a lot of pressure on us to commit a lot of time.
Game days are usually on Saturdays. We rarely participate in weekday games due to classes and homework. A big plus of not having a crazy big athletic department is that we don’t have to be at every home game, although we try to be there as much as possible.
In the fall we attend soccer games, and in the winter we attend basketball games. The spring is reserved for lacrosse games. We aren’t limited to one season, which allows us to watch most of the teams and support them.
Since we don’t have strict ties to the athletic department, we aren’t required to be at the game an hour early. We arrive normally fifteen minutes beforehand and do light warm-ups before we take our place on the sidelines.
We spend the majority of the game on the sidelines doing cheers, right up until halftime. A few minutes before halftime we step off the field or court to stretch and run the routine a few times as a refresher. Our halftime performances are relatively short, but we have a lot of choreography and cheering within it.
After halftime, we return to the sidelines to finish out the games. After the game is concluded we go back to our regular days doing homework, sleeping, or grabbing something to eat. The nice thing about having such low commitment is that games don’t make a huge dent in our days or weeks. We all have plenty of time to do our homework and socialize, as school comes first.
Being at a small school like Emerson means our cheerleading team is just as small. Its nice to have a small group of about 20 girls who get along really well and have a passion for the sport.
We do our best to bond as much as possible. Although we all have vastly different schedules, we get together often, whether it’s for post-practice brunch or pre-practice dinner. Having such a close team reflects in our performances because we simply love being and working together.
We welcome our new members with open arms. Adding new personalities gives the team a whole different dynamic in a good way. The cheerleading team has been a great way to meet people outside of my major and people I would otherwise go without ever crossing paths with.
Getting involved in a low-commitment sport is a great way to relieve the stress of school life, and make some great new friends! When we are in the gym practicing or on the field, I seem to forget all about my problems and just enjoy myself. I think I’m incredibly lucky to be surrounded by such awesome people!