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The Mass Media

Club profile: Cheerleaders pack double the punch

The+UMass+Boston+Cheerleading+Club+practicing+for+NCA+Nationals+in+Daytona%2C+Fla.+last+April.
The UMass Boston Cheerleading Club practicing for NCA Nationals in Daytona, Fla. last April. Photo courtesy of Maura Driscoll.

The UMass Boston Cheer team was founded in 2015 with only fifteen members to its name. The same woman who started the team—UMass Boston alumnus Katie Armstrong— coaches it today, alongside Katie Walsh and Emily Sandman. Since its beginning in 2015, Armstrong has witnessed the team grow from a fifteen member hype squad to a two-team collaboration that cheers on Beacons’ basketball and competes nationally against other college cheer teams.
Unlike other sports on campus, UMass Boston cheerleading is divided into two teams—the game team and the competition team. The game team is responsible for cheering on the Beacon basketball team and performing during halftime and timeouts. According to UMass Boston senior and cheer captain Maura Driscoll, this is the perfect team “for students who may not have as much cheerleading experience and want to learn more.”
There are no real prerequisites to join the game team; Driscoll just asks that you bring a “good attitude and a willingness to work hard.” Even students with zero cheer experience can join and learn as they go. It’s designed to function as a “perfect intro into the sport.”
Because the game team is geared towards students who wish to have fun and enjoy a more casual immersion into cheerleading, they only practice once a week on Sundays. They also perform weekly or biweekly at most of the Beacon basketball team’s home games in the Clark Athletic Center. They haven’t performed their usual halftime show since the start of COVID-19, but the team is hopeful they will reintroduce the routine to the crowd this coming season. Their season only lasts from November to December, so this team is perfect for students looking to join with less of a commitment.
Although one of the game team’s priorities is to cheer on the basketball team, that is only one aspect in their repertoire of skills. They also dance, tumble, showcase stunts and bring a high level of performance to their routines.
This multifaceted sport shows off those talents proudly on the UMass Boston competition team. The competition team trains twice a week, on Fridays and Sundays, in order to prepare for the only college cheerleading competition—National Cheerleaders Association Nationals, or NCA Nationals. At NCA Nationals, the team is required to perform a two minute and fifteen second routine consisting of stunt sections, tumbling, jumping and dancing. Last year was the team’s first time competing at Nationals, and they managed to place fourth out of 18 teams.
“Even making it to Daytona was a dream for the team,” said Driscoll.
This year the team hopes to attend showcase sendoffs put on by other schools, such as Bryant, in order to perform their routine before the big day in April.
Because of the competitive nature of this team, it is geared towards students who have some experience in cheerleading and are willing to pledge more of a commitment. As the competition gets closer in spring, the team practices three times a week and gives up their spring break to practice every day. This sacrifice is made up for by the week they spend in Daytona, Fla. for Nationals, and seeing their hard work pay off on the mat.
While practicing and performing are the name of the game for UMass Boston cheerleaders, they have also built a special community around each other. Freshman Mckayla Flanders, who joined the team this year, says it has “helped [her] feel more comfortable at the school.” She recalls staying at Airbnb’s together during cheer camp, and how the experience joined everyone together.
Leah Sajous, a junior and second year member, says the team gives her “a sense of family.” Her favorite memory from the team is singing 2000s songs on a bus chock full of students from another cheer team at Nationals.
Driscoll’s co-captain, senior Ally Bartlett, enjoys “doing what [she] loves with people [she] loves.” She is excited to see what the teams accomplish this year, working “extremely hard” in the process.
Any students interested in joining either of the teams in this community can try out on Sept. 30, from 7–9 p.m. at the Clark Athletic Center. Nothing needs to be prepared beforehand, but students should be ready to learn a cheer and dip their toes in the world of tumbling and stunting.
To stay updated with the cheer teams’ performances, events and news they are most accessible through their Instagram account @umassbostoncheer. However, they can also be reached through their email—[email protected].

About the Contributor
Skylar Bowman, Managing Editor