Cheerleading isn’t always considered a sport, but it takes a lot of time, effort and athleticism, especially down south at the University of Mississippi where cheerleading is taken seriously.
These athletes cheer for three different sports, including volleyball, men and women’s basketball, and football. They prepare year-round for competition and college nationals in Orlando, hold pep rallies and volunteer often.
This past year in Orlando, the Ole Miss All-Girl Cheerleading Squad placed first in the College Game Day Division. They dominated the competition and received their championship rings following their return home.
What exactly do Ole Miss cheerleaders do to prepare for the legendary SEC football games? The coed team “practices Tuesday and Thursday at 6 a.m., including a weight room session, and Friday as their pregame practice along with the all-girl team to prepare for an adrenaline rush of a Saturday morning,” said Landyn Gage, a freshman male coed cheerleader.
At these three- to four-hour long practices, the coed team works on stunting, preparing for competition season. Stunting is when a male cheerleader tosses a female in the air to catch her in his hands, while the female hits some type of body position or peps up the crowd.
Along with stunting, they work on game day stunts. Some practices are more focused on pyramids for competition, games and perfecting tumbling skills. “Outside of cheer practice, most coed cheerleaders work on bettering their skills for an extra five to six hours a week,” said Gage, 18.
“It’s very demanding, from morning workouts to practices, and cheering all day Saturday at home games,” he said. “It’s not just running around and jumping up and down. It is more tumbling and stunting and having a good amount of skill to perform and represent the school you attend. You rarely get breaks, and it’s physically demanding. Cheerleading is second to school work, yet they almost feel equal to each other.”
The Ole Miss cheerleading squads have specific requirements. Male cheerleaders should be prepared to perform the fight song routine and the rock-n-roll routine for the coed and all girl squad. You must be able to run and tumble. It is preferred that you demonstrate a standing tuck (standing back flip), and a full (spinning back flip). You need to complete a fitness test, an interview and an elite stunt.
Females trying out for the coed team must demonstrate they can do a college-level basket toss among other things. Females trying out for the all girl team are asked to demonstrate an elite stunt sequence that includes at least one spinning or flipping skill, one transition, one dismount, and a double down (a double spin down) from any type of body position.
“Practices can be very demanding and challenging at times,” said Casey Giles, a female cheerleader. “Being a freshman, the transition was not super hard, but it was something to get used to. All around, I love being an Ole Miss cheerleader, and I am so blessed to be able to represent this amazing university.”
Giles said cheering comes naturally. “You do not even think about how hard it may be in the moment,” she said. “Not every time is perfect, but it is a matter of getting used to your stunt group and finding what works best.”
Giles discovered that coed stunting was her thing and decided to try out for the coed team at Ole Miss.
“I have dreamt about this ever since I was a little girl,” she said. “It was like a dream come true. Being a college cheerleader is such an honor and is filled with so much joy and thrill.
“I am so grateful to be an Ole Miss cheerleader and experience SEC game day. There is no feeling that compares to cheering on the Rebs every Saturday. The rush it brings is truly amazing, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The Ole Miss cheerleading squad offers tryout requirements on their website (http://spirit.olemissrebels.com/cheer-tryouts/). Tryouts are closed to the public.