If you’ve never practiced in freezing rain or competed with a broken hand in a nationwide athletic competition, then you are probably not one of Troy’s cheerleaders.
Summer Jenkins, a freshman communication major from Brantley, enlightened us on the difficulties of being on a team that some do not even consider to be a sport.
The first trait seen in cheerleading is determination. “I moved schools because I wanted to cheer,” Summer said. “The private school I was at you had to wait a certain age to cheer, so I switched schools.”
This move occurred when she was in second grade. She has been cheering ever since, adding competitive gymnastics to her skills during high school.
When asked why she decided to make such a big life decision at such a young age, Summer said, “I think it goes with who I am—my personality. I’m bubbly, and it’s something I’ve always known. It’s just natural with how I react.”
Another necessity for cheering is dedication. Having cheered for over a decade before beginning college, Summer will not be getting a break any time soon.
In addition to individual workouts and training, the teams must practice together to be able to perform together.
“As a whole team, we probably spend four to five hours practicing a week,” Summer said. “Right now I’m on the co-ed squad. We cheer for football and basketball.”
The co-ed, or cardinal, squad consists of eight female and eight male members, while the silver squad consists of 12 to 14 females. There is also a competition team that competes for recognition.
All teams spend large amounts of time practicing—not including time spent at games or traveling to away games—with the competition team staying on campus over Christmas break to practice every day.
These practices have been known to be brutal. “If Sartain isn’t open, we’ve had to go out on the practice fields when it’s freezing cold and the grass is wet.”
“That is the hardest part, I would think. You have to sacrifice so much of your time and there are a lot of injuries as well. People don’t think you could get injured doing this, but you can.”
Summer has not received any injuries since her career started at Troy, but just this year other girls on the teams have suffered a variety of injuries—one a concussion from falling, as well as torn hamstrings and even a broken hand.
Thinking of the flouncy skirts and steady smiles, trips to the doctor and casts don’t normally come to mind. “A lot of people don’t see that part—we don’t get credit for that,” Summer said.
In addition to the many practices a week and possible pain involved, the cheerleaders also do volunteer activities. “We have little volunteer stuff sometimes,” Summer said. “Before a game one time we had some of us take pictures with little kids. Small things like that—we went to a baseball game once and performed there.”
Take all of these into account and a large portion of the cheerleaders’ time on and off campus has been consumed. “I didn’t want to get into something and not have time for it,” Summer said, explaining the lack of other extracurricular activities in her schedule. “I’m not in a sorority. I wanted to focus on my grades; I didn’t want to be too busy.”
Despite the many sacrifices that must be made to be involved in cheerleading, Summer agrees wholeheartedly that it is all worth it. “I’ve enjoyed being here a lot,” she said of her first year at Troy.
There are other rewarding aspects of cheerleading as well. As a member of the competition team, Summer traveled with them to Orlando to compete at the end of January.
Placing fifth in the nation for their division, Summer said, “This was the first we have been to UCA Nationals in a pretty good while, and we did really well for our name going into it.”
“Everyone was worried at first,” said Summer in reference to the competition. “But it was awesome being able to go down there and after everything we had worked for. I was an alternate as a freshman, so I mainly got to watch this amazing team.”
It was during this competition that one of the girls performed with a broken hand. “She was a bottom layer, so she had girls on her shoulders and had girls being thrown up to her. We have some tough girls that could do that,” she said of her teammate.
Head cheerleading coach, Tiffany Chandler, agrees with Summer regarding the team’s performance this year. “I feel like they’ve done a good job representing the university,” she said.
With cheer being a year-round responsibility, the members are now preparing for spring tryouts, a process that must be repeated every year for current members and hopefuls.
“We’re getting ready for tryouts again,” Summer said. “Then we’ll just jump back into competition. That’s what I’m excited for—hopefully a good year in cheerleading.”