|Maryland Cheerleading: A Novel and Successful Approach|
On the college scene, co-ed squads are accepted as the norm these days. The routines and stunts often necessitate male cheerleaders to help facilitate their execution. At the University of Maryland, the philosophy is different. "We feel there is a lot of available talent in the high schools among female cheerleaders," Maryland assistant Tracy Ricker said. "As a result we have an all girls squad."
The all girl squad has allowed Maryland to utilize a squad of 32, as opposed to 8 or 12 on a co-ed group. And as Ricker pointed out, that allows her unit to work with three times as much talented ladies as opposed to the numbers on a mixed squad of males and females.
Ricker and her head coach Tina Simijoski pointed out, during Maryland's trip to the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament in New York, that this is a relatively new approach. Years ago Cheerleading squads, especially on the collegiate level, were almost strictly co-ed. Being an all girl unit requires a stepped up approach in practice and training.
The squad works out three times a week for three hours per session. In addition there is an emphasis on overall conditioning and strength. "We've worked a lot with a strength trainer," Simijoski said. "We do all the same stunts and have the same elements as a co-ed squad. Naturally when you have girls instead of the guys in those positions (as spotting) the demands for strength and durability are that much greater."
While the rigorous training is a trademark of the Maryland program, so is the camaraderie. "We are like a family," senior Angela Fisher said. "We are all very close and always practice together." That includes the formal squad workouts and informal, but required, conditioning sessions.
Co-captain Janelle Brown, a senior, also spoke about the togetherness that Fisher alluded to. Brown also talked about the general excitement of cheering at Maryland. An excitement generated by athletic achievements.
"The success of our football team and basketball team has made it very exciting on campus," she said. "With those teams playing well our fans are coming out and supporting them (in greater numbers). It just adds to the excitement."
Last season, Gary Williams' basketball program made it to the Final Four. Many pre-season prognostications feel a return trip is a distinct possibility. Currently, the football team is enjoying an outstanding year. Those teams are joined by another highly regarded and successful group at the Atlantic Coast Conference school, the Terrapin cheerleaders.
The group led by Simijoski and Ricker, competes nationally and has been top five nationally the past few years. Currently they hold the top spot in that category. And look forward to continuing that impressive tradition with their unique approach.
About Ray Floriani: Ray Floriani has been writing college basketball for over twenty years. He is a columnist with Eastern Basketball magazine, Basketball Times and College Hoops Insider. In 1998 he was cited by the Gazelle Group for his work in covering the Coaches vs. Cancer events and was chosen 1999 NIT Media Man of the Year. Contact Ray Floriani.