UNC: Game Changer

In Feature Stories, September 2016 by Alexandra DrosuLeave a Comment

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Never underestimate the power of fans to pump up a team and change a losing streak into a winning one. Cheerleaders know how to harness this energy while also entertaining the crowd, and their efforts to support the team go a long way. We spoke with Isabelle Goodwin, head cheerleader and a senior at UNC Chapel Hill, on the competitive sport, camaraderie and keeping fans in the game.

12362763_871201792998273_3792692260947835627_o Why are cheerleaders are important to the game of football?

We help bring an excitement to the game. We are also another source of entertainment for the fans during lulls. As cheerleaders, we help hype up the crowd before the games and at time-outs. Whenever there isn’t a play going on, we interact with [fans]. If the fans aren’t cheering we will try to do something to get their attention. I think the main thing we do is keep the fans IN the game.

Was there a game where you really pumped up fans?

At the Duke game last year I think the fans helped us get as far out score wise as we did. Everyone was so pumped and excited the whole time, the stadium was the fullest I’ve ever seen it. The air in the stadium was electric and we could all feel it.

How rigorous is the training?

All of the girls on the team come in either with competitive cheerleading or gymnastics backgrounds. We also must get into UNC of our own merit before we can try out. To make the team, there are certain skills we are required to have so those must be learned before the try-outs. Flipping, dancing and jumping is also physically exhausting so we have to be in good shape. Once we are on the team, we practice twice, sometimes three times a week and have weight training with the football lift coaches the other two days.

What do you think the biggest misconceptions are?

I think the main thing is that people don’t realize the amount of time and effort we put into it. To not be considered a sport, we spend a lot of time at practice, weightlifting, games and charity events. Our season is all year because we support a number of sports teams, the main ones being football and basketball. Unfortunately, this leads to a lack of funding, meaning this year we only get to travel to one away game with the football team, as well as not having an academic advisor or priority registration like the rest of the teams.

Can you talk a little bit about the camaraderie of the squad?

We are a family. We all truly enjoy our time together and hang out even outside of practice. It makes the practices and games so much fun because you get to spend them on the field next to your best friends. When we’re working on new skills everyone is there to support you and cheer for you once you get it. It’s a great environment. We do what we are supposed to at practice but we joke around [too].

How do you think cheerleading has changed over the years?

Cheerleading has become more of a “sport” and way more involved. It’s no longer just dancing around and cheering. Now we flip, have boys toss us high in the air, and stand on one leg 8 feet off the ground. Occasionally, we flip and twist while being thrown up in the air too. The total height of a stunt is probably around 12 feet.

What is the best part of what you do?

I think it would probably come down to either the camaraderie with the lifetime friends I’ve made or the incredible feeling of flying through the air and landing solidly on top of someone’s hands. It’s a feeling that you can’t find anywhere else. It’s a rush of adrenaline and then the pride of being perfectly in sync with your partner and performing your skill flawlessly

What does it feel like when you win and lose?

When you’re on the field, you feel the buzz of the crowd and can see the emotions of the players and it’s as if you were the one suited up in the huddle. We celebrate the wins and mourn the hard losses just as much as any of the players. When we win, your adrenaline is pumping, you’re ecstatic, and you can’t stop grinning. When we lose a big game, we tear up and quietly comfort each other with linked arms in “Hark the Sound”

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