After years of practice and preparation, the UR cheerleading squad finally advanced to the “Reach the Beach” national championships last weekend in Ocean City, Maryland.
They didn’t win it. In fact, they weren’t scored. But the weekend was a huge success for an up-and-coming program.
“We did an exhibition this year, which means we performed but were not scored,” head coach Anna Rogers says. “Since this is the first time we’ve gone to nationals in 14 years, we wanted to get feedback from judges without having the pressure to place.”
And next year?
“Next year, our goal is to compete and place in the top three!” Rogers says.
Rogers has been involved in cheerleading for more than 13 years and is excited about her program, which includes 14 females. It’s solely a competitive cheer team and does not cheer for University teams such as football and basketball.
“The team has been practicing so hard since September,” Rogers says. “All they wanted to do is to compete in the nationals.”
This is Roger’s fourth year coaching at the University of Rochester. She has witnessed the team growing year after year.
“When I started coaching, the team wasn’t even doing college-level stunts,” she says. “I am very glad to see the progress we made in the past four years.”
Roger gives much credit to her cheerleading E-board, especially captain Tay Porter-Monroe ’16, who majors in Linguistics.
Porter-Monroe used to play softball in high school but had no cheerleading experience when she joined the team as a freshman.
“Although Tay had never done cheerleading before, she has very strong leg muscles due to her softball training,” Roger says, “This helps her to master the skills really quickly.”
Monroe is not only a hard-working athlete herself, but an amazing mentor for younger students on the team.
The cheerleading team usually practices two nights a week—Monday and Wednesday from 8:30-10:30 p.m. plus an hour tumbling class for the third night.
“We rent out an All-star gym, Core Athletix, for training and I coach the regular practices,” Rogers says.
Because of her personal injury experience, Rogers puts safety as her top priority.
“Doing tumbling training for more than an hour actually hurts your joints,” she says.
Although Rogers was an all-star level high school coach, she still ran into difficulties when she started to coach at the University of Rochester. A broad spectrum of skills on the team makes it difficult to keep everyone on the same page and go through the same training sessions.
“We have people who have never cheered their entire lives when they join the team,” Rogers says. “What they have to learn is the elementary school level, and we have to make sure they build up their skills quickly and safely. In the meantime, we also have people who cheered for four years at high school.”
What Rogers does is mix the group and let the older ones lead a few inexperienced people.
They usually go through all the training sessions in the fall and start competition in the spring. All the team members have the opportunity to touch base on or recap the basics in spring so that it helps them to build up their skills.
“You cannot move on to the second skill unless you master the first,” Rogers says.
She admits that it is hard at the beginning, especially when people have such huge gaps in terms of abilities and skills. However, since it is a team sport, she has to make sure everyone is at the same level.
“If one person is gone, you can’t lift or stunt,” she says.
Rogers is very pleased to see everyone on the team is so close.
Yukako Ito ’17, a computer science majoring, is the quintessential team member. She tore her ACL her freshman year but still came to every practice with a full leg cast, just sitting and watching.
It wasn’t until November of her sophomore year that she returned to the team for training and competition.
“Everyone on the team is so supportive,” Rogers says.