“It’s too bad most people just see us wave our pom-poms at football games,” said Ryan Martin, a senior cheerleader majoring in journalism and American studies. “Of course, that’s not all we do.”
The UA cheerleaders are among the nation’s best. In 2011, they won the College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship, and they captured second place this year in January in Orlando. Following this year’s silver-place showing, three UA cheerleaders auditioned to represent the United States at the International Cheerleading Union World Championships, and three UA cheerleaders were chosen.
“It’s the opportunity to represent our country,” Martin said. “You can’t really express that feeling in words.”
Martin and her teammates, Caitlin Seabrook and Jordan Olson, will travel back to Orlando next Monday to meet the rest of Team USA. Practice will begin shortly thereafter, and the first day of ICU World Championships will be April 26.
This year, the international athletic competition is once again primed to take its biggest stage. After all, 2012 is an Olympic year, but cheerleading is not among the sports that will be showcased in London this summer. This lack of recognition may be coming to an end. In fact, a Google search of “cheerleading Olympic sport” voices the outcry that may give cheerleading a fighting chance in 2016.
The ICU World Championships also illustrate the sport’s rising recognition. In its fourth year, the competition is expected to host over 3,000 cheerleaders from more than 70 countries. UA cheerleaders acknowledge that the sport is gaining momentum.
“In the next few years, it’s going to be much bigger than it is now,” Olson, a junior majoring in accounting, said. “The sport is definitely changing.”
Olson believes cheerleading offers athletes and spectators something different: A coed experience. He also points out that, recently, the sport is being cast in a new light — one highlighting physicality.
“Many people don’t realize the hard work that goes into it,” Olson said. “Cheerleading is turning into a very athletic sport, and the stunts are taking center stage.
Seabrook echoed this sentiment.
“Not only are we practicing our skills and stunts, but we also focus on endurance, flexibility, and strength,” Seabrook said.
Those stunts will be one of many aspects of the sport on display later this month. This particular competition will combine two different styles. UCA, the Universal Cheerleading Association, stresses a more traditional style, while NCA, the National Cheerleading Association, emphasizes music and dance. The University of Alabama is a UCA program, but members of Team USA will come from both backgrounds.
“That’s what will make it a learning experience for us,” Seabrook said. “It’ll be interesting to see how all of our different styles mesh together.”
Despite the impending challenges, the three are remaining optimistic. Throughout the year, they’re often called on to act as ambassadors for the University, appearing at several banquets and functions. It’s just another day at work, and representing their country isn’t too tall of an order.
“ICU Worlds is a huge deal for cheerleading,” Seabrook said. “It’s an elite competition, and we’re honored and blessed to be part of Team USA.