New club squad sees successBy Kayla Montgomery | 02/24/2014 11:00pm
When University of Alabama junior Gerard Jones began stunting on the Quad with friends over the summer, he envisioned a casual social setting for those with a cheerleading background to stay connected to the sport.
A semester later, this casual gathering has transitioned into a successful competitive group, the Alabama Club Cheer Team.
“During the summer, we started the cheer club, which was meant to be strictly social, with people simply talking about cheer, free stunting and watching competitions,” Jones said. “When I saw the talent we had, I decided to start a second branch, the actual team.”
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The new team competed in Cheersport Nationals in Atlanta, Ga.,on Feb. 15-16 and won second place in the college division in its first competition.
Team members hope to eventually compete through the National Cheerleaders Association, a separate division from the UA sponsored teams, but the team wasn’t able to this year because of financial restraints. Instead, the team began its competition experience at Cheersport.
“Cheersport is one of the largest competitions in the region and the U.S.,” Jones said. “If we weren’t going to NCA Nationals the first year, we still wanted to go somewhere we could get some good exposure against some good competition.”
Having only been together for a few months, the team has had many obstacles in preparing for competitions, most notably the lack of a consistent facility to practice in. Often, the group had to practice on the Quad, a surface not ideal for competitive cheerleaders.
The group was finally able to find facilities in the gyms of Tumbling Tides, ACE of Tuscaloosa and High Fly All Stars.
Co-coach Jacob Quinlan, a senior at the University, said the team would not have been as successful without the help of these organizations.
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“We as a team are very thankful for them letting us use their facilities in competition prep,” Quinlan said.
In addition to the struggle of finding facilities, lack of funding was also an issue for the team, since it is not sponsored by the University. Jones said most of the team’s funding has come from its own pockets or from the Source, a UA organization that advocates the creation of student organizations.
The club team has also faced challenges in recruiting members to its organization because of lack of awareness. Currently, there are only 14 members, fewer than most other competitive teams in its division.
“The first year of an organization is always rough, and it’s been hard getting the word out,” Quinlan said. “There’s a lot of talent on campus that hasn’t been tapped into.”
Given the obstacles the team faced in its early stages, Jones said coming in second at Cheersport was that much sweeter.
“Getting to Cheersport in itself was an accomplishment,” Jones said. “We took away a much-needed confidence from this competition, and the team is much more confident in our program and coaching. They saw that with hard work comes results.”
The team will return to the mat Sunday for the Spirit Brands Southeast Championships in Birmingham and looks to participate in showcases in the fall before NCA Nationals next year.
Currently, the team is looking to add new members who have competition experience at level four or higher and can execute a layout and standing back-tuck. Those interested can email the organization at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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