By Michael Irish
JACOB KONST/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Freshman cheerleader Suzy Chaves spent this year rallying crowds at sporting events alongside the rest of the 22-person squad.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Arizona cheerleaders are at every game, performing back flips and throwing each other up into the air, all for the enjoyment of the crowd.
People may think cheerleaders are just random students who are assigned to stir up the crowd at selected campus sporting events, but there is much more to it than that.
Cheer preparation begins with selecting the squad from about 40 to 60 candidates over three days of tryouts, Friday to Sunday.
"Tryouts are overwhelming because there are all these new people competing for a few spots on the team," said sophomore Taylor Hendrickson. "It's like working out for a full day."
The first day consists of practicing the selected tryout material. Candidates then perform in front of the judges.
First cuts are made by a panel, which consists of the cheer coach, the cheer adviser and selected UA alumni with cheerleading backgrounds.
The second day begins with an interview by the coach and advisor. Then come the next series of cuts.
If students are lucky enough to survive both cuts, they begin to learn the UA fight song and practice sideline routines, stunts and tumbling.
The third and final day of tryouts starts with more practice of the selected tryout material. After three hours of practice, it is time to perform in front of the judges. Then final cuts are made.
Welcome to the University of Arizona cheerleading squad.
Arizona cheer coach Jon Kruse said the expectations for cheerleaders on his squad are high.
"I'm proud of the effort they put in. We expect hard work, but they get fun out of it," he said.
There are certain expectations of being on the cheer squad, including performing at all football games, home and away, as well as men's and women's basketball, volleyball and gymnastics meets. Each member must make 10 community service appearances each year, pay a membership fee of $100 and maintain a 2.0 grade point average with a minimum of 12 units per semester.
But the hardest part may be the mandatory practice Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., in addition to three weekly conditioning practices in McKale Center.
"It's good to start off the day early in the morning, and then you can go to class already awake and ready for the day. Early morning classes are ideal," Hendrickson said.
In addition to those benefits, there are some tangible ones too.
The cheerleaders receive free Nike gear, including sweat suits, T-shirts, shorts, travel bags and shoes.
Aside from the clothes, Arizona cheerleaders are members of one of the top athletic departments in the country and have the opportunity to travel for football games, post-season men's and women's basketball games, Final Four volleyball games and postseason gymnastics meets.
The team goes on many trips for post-season play, various tournaments and away games. Although it may sound great to miss class, the cheerleaders said it does catch up with you in the end.
"It's hard coming back from tournaments and missing a lot of school. It's a great experience being on the road with the team and representing the school," said Hendrickson.
Hendrickson, a sophomore and Phoenix native, is the cheer captain, which is unique because the captain position is usually held by a senior.
In order to be named captain, a cheerleader must be nominated by other members of the team, and then the coach and adviser pick the best person the lead the team.
"I was honored to be nominated," Hendrickson said. "It's exciting that people thought of me as a leader. I knew it would be hard, but I wanted to do the job."
Kruse said the team is always searching for athletes who are willing to give 100 percent.
"We're looking for guys and girls to work hard and reap the benefits that come along with being on the team," said Kruse.