Spirit Squad looks to expand role under athletic department

Sept. 16, 2013

Jonathan Toman
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The Spirit Squad is entering uncharted waters at UCCS this year.

Beginning this fall, the squad will be under the athletic department and no longer function as a club sport. As a club, the team essentially operated on its own. Now, it reports directly to the athletic department.

This is despite the fact that cheerleading is not recognized as an NCAA sport, which leads to a first at UCCS.

“It’s a unique situation, the first time we’ve ever done anything like this,” said Jared Verner, assistant athletic director for sports information. “We want to establish them as part of the team.”

But while this is a first at UCCS, it is not a first for the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. Fort Lewis College in Durango has a similar situation with its cycling team, and several other schools in the RMAC have rodeo teams in similar spots as well.

“There is history at other schools within our conference,” Verner said. “But from my perspective, I’m treating it just like any other sport.”

Concussion testing and other sports medicine events are now required, along with access to athletic trainers, who can now help with injuries and safety issues, as the team is now under athletic insurance.

Assistant Director of Compliance Amy Sutz, who now doubles as the UCCS spirit director, sees the team headed in the right direction.

Sutz was the faculty sponsor for the team last year, and the former high school cheerleader had some troubles with her team.

“It was kind of a train wreck,” Sutz said. “We got all the girls together and I asked them if this is something we want to do.”

Sutz is now in charge of both the cheerleaders and the mascot, which adds up to 13 people at this point. They hope to possibly add the UCCS dance team in the future as well.

Clyde will also attend some practices so she can learn some of the moves and coordinate with the cheerleaders and perhaps even do some stunts.

The team is also looking to expand its sphere of influence regarding the types of sports the spirit team attends, although Sutz said that “golf is kind of a hard one.”

Soccer, basketball, volleyball and softball are the main sports on the radar for the team at this point, with basketball the main focus.

“We will have the ability to do more things and interact with the other teams,” said Shaelyn Hood, senior captain. “We can have more connections.”

There is no competition season for the team currently, but Verner added that this is not the main goal right now. “The focus is to enhance the atmosphere of home games,” he said.

“A surprising amount of coaches that want us to attend their games,” Hood said. “It’s been such an awesome experience to have coaches be so accepting. It feels good.”

Hood is glad to be working with the team she has.

“They are such great people, so dedicated, so willing to push further than even I would ask,” Hood said. “We’re excited, we’re excited, we’re really excited.”

“The best ambassadors represent the school both on and off the field,” Sutz said. “We expect the girls to have very high character.”

Sutz hopes to see the role of the Spirit Squad expand as it moves forward, and Verner and Hood see things progressing similarly.

“I hope the Spirit Squad will have much more of a presence on campus, more obvious,” Sutz said. “I hope people get used to seeing us around. I hope people will make the connection, ‘Oh, cheer has their outfit on, there must be a game today.’ It’s a walking announcement.”

“We want to enhance the level of involvement in community,” Verner said. “And competitions down the road are a natural next step.”

For now, Hood and Sutz are excited to see where things go this year.

“We’re so happy to be where we are,” said Hood. “We want to wow people with our stunts and help give people more pride in our school.”

“I think it’s going to have a tremendous positive impact,” Sutz said. “It’s like a win for everybody.”