The NKU cheerleading squad had a year’s worth of work judged in a single day.
Coach Shayla Myles-Aaron said 365 days of hard work led up to a third place finish in the national competition.
It’s the work behind-the-scenes throughout the year that prepared them for that one day.
“This year we really focused on ‘team us’ and no one else,” Myles-Aaron said. “The problem last year was that I believed but they didn’t believe. They were looking at what everyone else was doing and not worrying about what they were doing.”
Zana Harman, junior social work major, believes that the squad has greatly improved since last year.
“I think this year we had a huge improvement from eighth place to third place but I still think that it is good to grow off of,” Harman said.
While getting ready for Nationals, Sarah Coffman, freshman elementary school education major, said she didn’t know what to expect at the competition. After all of the hard work and dedication, she said she will know what to expect in the future, and she will be more prepared and confident.
The cheerleading squad has two practices per week when they are in season. When winter break hits, they start two-a-days.The dynamic nature of the sport combined with long hours on the mat makes injuries relatively common. Some main injuries that cheerleaders face are sprained ankles, and neck,shoulder and knee injuries.
Coffman has a shoulder injury, but she said the best way to cope is to simply push through the discomfort.
She is not the only team member to deal with nagging injuries.
Desiree Allen, senior accounting major, said that she has sprained her ankle five different times. “I had ankle surgery May of ’15 and went back full force for Nationals,” Allen said.
Before Nationals 2015, the assistant cheerleading coach went to the National Guard, which left Myles-Aaron by herself. She said this caused stress at times.
In addition to having one coach, some members of the squad felt that trusting one another was a huge obstacle.
Coffman said that one of the most challenging things before Nationals was being together with everyone on the squad and being confident. Harman agreed that it was difficult to come together at times.
“It is easy to get frustrated because we may do things differently, but it’s all about working together to see what works best,” Harman said.
Myles-Aaron said teamwork extends to events in the community. The cheerleading squad participates in charity events throughout the year.
“It’s not what you just see on the basketball court,” Myles-Aaron said. “These kids do over 1,200-plus hours of community service.”
Myles-Aaron said this level of support and engagement extends from the community to the sidelines.
“We want to support everything and anything,” Myles-Aaron said. “We are cheerleaders; we want to lead cheers.”