Justin Doby won’t let hardships and criticism silence his cheers.
Doby, a third-year mathematics students from Gaineville, is one of two male cheerleaders on the Florida A&M co-ed cheerleading squad this year. Doby became interested in cheerleading when he was a sophomore in high school.
“In high school, I think the movie Bring It On came out and I was inspired to try out, plus my friends were like ‘oh you should come and tryout’ and I did,” Doby said.
Cheerleading coach Brandy Tatum said men were always allowed to tryout for cheerleading at FAMU, but they were not added to the squad until 2007. Tatum wanted to allow another HBCU an opportunity to have a co-ed squad, which she believes will attract more male cheerleaders to FAMU.
“My parents were supportive when they found out I was cheering. They laughed and actually thought it was funny,” Doby said. “They would come to my games and say ‘oh, look at you out there’ and videotape.”
Doby said he has been labeled effeminate because he cheers, but he did not let that deter him from cheering. He said that he has dealt with stereotypes, but no one has ever told him that he should not be cheering because of them.
“We stereotype everything we do,” Doby said. “It just comes with the territory.”
Doby said he was criticized in high school for being a cheerleader, but now that he is in college, he does not have to hear it as often.
Tatum said Doby has cheered for three years and stands out as a leader.
“He has great technical skills that help us build competition routines. He definitely has a vision for what looks good with motions and dance techniques,” Tatum said.
Christopher Tillman, a sophomore education student and cheerleader at FAMU, finds Doby’s leadership skills motivating.
“When I first started cheering, I hated to workout,” Tillman said. “Justin told me that the other cheerleaders would count on our upper body strength for lifting and stunts. That motivated me.”
Tatum tries to educate people about cheerleading and what cheerleading provides to individuals.
“It is a stigma around male cheerleaders, but if you look at any school like Kentucky or Old Miss, the PWI’s (predominately white institutions), it seems not to be that big of a deal to have males on their cheerleading squads,” Tatum said. “I just try to educate people so they can make educated comments.”
Coach Tatum is happy to have Doby on her squad and even more proud of his progress.
“I have watched him grow from a shy, kind of reserved guy to the leader he is for this team today,” Tatum said.