|Rutgers University Cheerleading: Expert Advice|
A common denominator among cheerleaders of all levels is a love of their sport and a burning passion to improve. I confess. Not until writing on Cheerleading last Winter and interviewing those young men and women involved in it, did I realize how the dream of reaching the collegiate level was long an integral part of so many. Even the girls cheering at my high school alma mater, St.Mary's in Rutherford, NJ, are constantly searching for information outside of practice and working to get to that next level. Whether that is making JV, Varsity or realizing that dream of cheering in college.
This column is geared to provide a bit of advice for those on the junior high or high school level. While covering the Rutgers - Stony Brook basketball game in late November, I spoke with four members of the Rutgers all-girl squad and the Cheerleading Dance coach, Christine Zoffinger. The four women on the Rutgers squad interviewed were the following: Faith Merrill, a Freshman from Phillipsburg, NJ; Kristi Mannucci, a sophomore from East Hampton, NJ; Dana Truncellito, a junior from East Windsor, NJ and Cay Paulin, a junior from Freehold, NJ. All cheered and worked hard for many years prior to realizing their dreams. Rutgers maintains a co-ed and all-girl Cheerleading squad as well as a nationally ranked dance team under the direction of Christine Zoffinger.
What advice would you give high school or junior high cheerleaders hoping to reach the next level ?
"Get into gymnastics. They are very important, I wish I started in gymnastics
Kristi - "Get involved in gymnastics. Work on your flexibility and always have and show your spirit."
Dana - "Start easy with skills like tumbling. The harder things you can pick up later and when you are ready to learn them you won't be scared."
Cay - "Start learning to tumble early. Jumps are also good to work on."
Coach Chris - "Number one you need to be in gymnastics or work a lot on tumbling. Once you are on a squad it helps if you get involved in competition. Basically start young, work on gymnastic skills as tumbling. You have to do a back handspring if you want to cheer on the college level."
What is the toughest transition in going from high school to the college level?
"There are all new stunts to learn. Many of the stunts you do on this level
may have been illegal in high school (due to safety reasons)."
Kristi - "The demands of having a strong tumbling background."
Dana - "Your movements have to be sharper and your tumbling skills have to be good."
Cay - "You may have to cheer in front of 40,000 fans and a TV camera in college. In high school the biggest crowd may reach 1,000."
Coach Chris - "The whole scope is bigger in college. You cheer in front of bigger crowds there is more competition . There are a lot more high schools than colleges so there are less available spots. In college you have to tryout, some high school squads may be small and not even have a tryout."
What general advice would you give to a young cheerleader trying to improve?
"Work on your gymnastics."
Kristi - "Work on keeping your motions stiff."
Dana - "Work hard. Work on your motions and smile. It's always a plus."
Cay - "Practice for competition. Try to develop a presence and have spirit."
Coach Chris - "Work on strength and flexibility. Know the current trends and what is going on. Try to watch videos of college teams to learn what they are doing."
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.