“Go Rattlers, Go Rattlers, Go!” is the cry as the sporting season begins for yet another academic year. Along with the fall sports comes the cheerleading squad as they perform daredevil stunts and cheers to encourage the true Rattler spirit.
Being part of the sporting season, cheerleaders will lend support to the football and volleyball teams, and later on to the basketball teams.
They will also concentrate on the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference’s cheerleading competition, which takes place early next year. The team is striving for a first-place finish against other HBCU’s.
The squad goes through rigorous training, practicing every Monday through Wednesday from 7:30 – 10 p.m. to perfect routine moves. They also condition in the campus gym and go to the weight room three times a week. At times, the team said, it seems like they train harder than the football team.
The ability to be compact and light are qualities that cheerleaders need in order to perform their fliers and somersaults well. In fact, each cheerleader on the team weighs no more than 112 pounds, said Angela Ross, cheerleading director. Coordination, balance and competitiveness are the other elements that cheerleaders possess.
But the main element, according to the team, is the motivational and fighting spirit that each girl must have.
“We’re always supposed to show the happy side, even when we are in pain, and we do this because we love it,” said Latoya Skinner, a sophomore computer systems student from Houston.
A popular opinion is that cheerleaders are not really top notch, that they are there for their good looks and to flash people with the short skirts that they wear when they tumble. But to cheerleaders, it’s more than being pretty.
“It’s not about being pretty and looking good,” Skinner said. “Cheerleaders cheer and give support to their team, as well as trying to let the crowd be involved.”
Skinner said that if people knew how rigorous practice was, they would realize just how much effort cheerleaders give.
While it may be assumed that people representing FAMU on a collegiate level get some kind of financial aid or scholarship, but that is not so for the cheerleaders.
In fact, cheerleading is not officially recognized as an athletic sport on this campus, and as such, the team members receive no form of compensation, monetary or otherwise from the athletic department.
Kisha Watson, 18, a freshman business student from Tampa, said she really enjoys the opportunities that cheerleading has provided, even though there is no monetary compensation.
“It’s exciting. It’s a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun,” she said. “We get to cheer on the football team wherever they are, so sometimes we’ll travel, and it’s great because we get to give support to the team, we get to bond with our teammates and we get to meet people from all across the country.”
This season the squad has 29 members. There are 21 freshmen, three sophomores, four juniors, and one senior.
“The team is progressing well,” Ross said.
“The skill level this year is top-notch and once everyone is settled, we’ll work on the small things. The skills definitely outshine the smaller things. I’ll put them against any squad right now because I expect them to be the best, and I demand nothing but the best from them.”
The squad is funded through alternative sources including the Student Government Association. Because of this funding, they will be able to go to each football game this season, except the one against Delaware State.
The team has plans to make the games seem even better and to be the true embodiment of Rattler spirit. According to Skinner, who has been with the team for a year now, students should watch out and take notice.
“We’re going to come out strong in FAMU’s next home game,” she said. “We plan to do more of the elite things and we’re going to show the students what we’ve been working on. They won’t be disappointed.”
Melissa Bridgewater can be reached at email@example.com