Tryouts for UAA’s cheer team will take place April 15-18 from 6 to 10 p.m. in the auxiliary gym of the Alaska Airlines Center. All sessions are mandatory and open to all UAA students, men and women, as well as incoming freshmen.
The team performs during volleyball and men and women’s basketball games, volunteers at hockey games and travels to competitions when their schedule allows. At the sporting events, the team cheers throughout the game, as well as performs during timeouts and halftime.
For Ashley Tracy, a sophomore majoring in biology, being part of the cheer team at UAA has been a way to push herself out of her comfort zone.
“Cheer has been a stress reliever for me and it never fails to distract me from everything wrong in the world,” Tracy said. “Coach always said, ‘No matter what problems you’re facing out there, once you come into those doors for practice, they stay out there,’ and that truly was the case for me.”
Cheer at UAA originally started as a club but over time has merged into part of the Athletics Department. Although the university does not officially give them the title of athletes, cheerleaders have to abide by the same rules as the other sports teams.
Unlike the other teams, the cheerleaders do not receive scholarships. The majority of the team’s funding is either earned through fundraisers or taken out of pocket.
Through practicing, performing and fundraising, the cheer program has taught Drew Pekar, freshman computer science major, valuable lessons as a student.
“Cheer has benefited me by teaching me better time management and handling responsibilities. The team is also a good environment that pushes me to do well physically and academically,” Pekar said.
The cheer season lasts from July to April, and the team plans to practice five days a week in the upcoming season. The team hopes to attend several competitions, as well as travel with one of the sports teams to some of their away games.
Currently, cheerleaders practice Saturday through Tuesday, with practice times ranging from two to four hours. Saturdays are dedicated to partner stunts and conditioning, Sundays focus on group stunts and tumbling and Mondays and Tuesdays range from learning new material to performing at a sporting event.
“It takes a level of commitment to be on our team,” Breanna Hardy, a junior majoring in human services and one of the team captains, said. “It’s a lot of dedication, hard work and perseverance.”
Despite the long and often difficult practices, Hardy and her team find ways to have fun while still working hard.
“We’re like a small family, we like to joke a lot,” Hardy said. “We have a lot of laughter during our practices, but at the same time, we get done what needs to be done.”
For anyone considering joining UAA cheer for the first time, Tracy says to remain open-minded and give it your all.
“The more open you are to trying something, the better chance you have at succeeding,” Tracy said. “Always give your absolute best effort because if you don’t, then you won’t really know what you are truly capable of.”
For questions and additional tryout information, contact Coach Tasarla Shaw at firstname.lastname@example.org.