Sure you can quote every line from Bring It On, but do you really understand cheerleading? Sixteen of your fellow classmates vigorously train for both competitions and to cheer on Columbia’s other sports teams. Cheerleading’s Cheerleader Alison Herman whips out her spirit fingers in this edition of Spotlight on Sports.
How It Works
Unlike other sports, cheerleading serves a dual purpose: encouraging school spirit at home football and basketball games and competing on a national level as a sport in its own right. Competitive intercollegiate cheer is orchestrated by the National Cheerleaders Association, or NCA, which judges teams on a scale of 1 to 10 based on five criteria: partner stunts, pyramids, tosses, jumps, and tumbling. Teams are evaluated based on their performance as a group, making collaboration and cooperation essential elements of the sport. Collegiate cheer squads can qualify for NCA’s annual national competition by either submitting a video of a routine or earning a “bid” at an intensive, three-day cheer camp held each August by the NCA.
Cheer at Columbia
Coached by Columbia Law alumna Yavonia Wise, the Columbia cheer squad has grown from nine to sixteen members in the past five years. Members come from virtually all class years and backgrounds: co-captain Alexa Goldson, CC ’12, is a former gymnast who only began cheering in college, while Kate Collison, a grad student in the classics certificate program, has been involved with cheer for most of her life. No prior experience is required to join the team, which holds tryouts each September.
The squad holds practice twice a week in Levien Gymnasium, where members stretch, condition, and go over routines for both Columbia athletic events and cheer competitions. Due to the risky nature of many of the squad’s stunts, the team typically displays only half the skill set of its competitive routine at basketball and football games, where it performs on a hard surface. During practice, however, the squad goes through its full repertoire with safety precautions like padded mats and spotters.
Columbia Cheer made its competitive debut at a local competition in New Jersey in 2009. In just four years of competition, they have qualified for NCA Nationals twice, and were the only Ivy squad in attendance at the 2011 championship event.
Where to Watch
Columbia Cheer performs at home football games during the fall and home men’s and women’s basketball games during the winter—the men’s basketball team will be playing its final home games of the season on Friday and Saturday night, facing off against Harvard and Dartmouth. The cheer squad will be competing at the NCA Collegiate Championship in Daytona Beach, Florida from April 11th to April 15th.
Dream vacation via Wikimedia Commons