The whirlwind of campus visits is behind you. You’ve navigated the tryout clinics and committed the fight song to heart. Congratulations, you’ve secured a spot on your college cheerleading team! Your years of fierce competition and dedicated cheerleading have brought you to this moment, but are you truly prepared for the journey ahead? In just a matter of months, you’ll be bidding farewell to the all star cheer world and embarking on a new adventure as a collegiate cheerleader. The transition from all stars to college brings a fresh set of hurdles and responsibilities. Brace yourself for intensified practice sessions, rigorous conditioning routines, high-profile appearances at college events, and the delicate art of balancing academic life with cheer commitments.
Every college team mandates a summer conditioning regimen to ready you for the challenges that lie ahead. Conditioning sessions outside regular practice hours become a crucial part of your routine. The timing of your college’s summer camp will determine your on-campus check-in date. This time during the summer serves to prepare both you and your team for the upcoming season. Reflecting on her experience, Amber Pellegrini, a freshman at Davenport University and former member of Pittsburgh Superstars, recalls, “During the summer, we underwent two weeks of intensive 8-hour-a-day camps in preparation for NCA camp. Daily workouts at the gym in the student center and covering miles of running were the norm.” However, summer practice encompasses more than just physical conditioning—it’s a golden opportunity to familiarize yourself with sideline routines and immerse yourself in various campus traditions. Alexa Wiggins, a senior at the University of Louisville and former member of World Cup, shares an important piece of advice: “Approach this experience with an open mind and a positive attitude, especially when learning new routines. While every all-star team has its own methods, collegiate coaches value athletes who are receptive to new ways of doing things.”
Before the first day of classes even arrives, the cheerleading team assumes numerous responsibilities. As ambassadors of the university, you’ll be front and center in representing your school and extending a warm welcome to fellow students. Courtney Fernandez, reflecting on her freshman year at Methodist University, recounts, “During the Orientation pep rally, I found myself giving directions to other freshmen. It struck me later that these same students would soon be my classmates. Amidst my own role, I realized I was a freshman just like them.” Molly Michaluk, a senior at the University of Louisville and former member of South Elite All Stars, eloquently describes the role of a collegiate cheerleader: “In the world of collegiate cheer, you’re perpetually a leader and a representative of your school.” Wiggins adds, “Being approachable and well-informed about your university is essential. The community will always show interest in getting to know you and learning about your school’s sports teams.”
Juggling practices, games, and academics during the season demands a careful balancing act. Pellegrini shares her perspective: “We devote 3 hours a day, 4 days a week, to practice.” Fernandez’s sentiments mirror this sentiment: “Striking a balance between practice, games, and coursework can be challenging. Effective time management and prioritization are key skills to develop. College cheer compelled me to focus on my studies.” As a second-year PhD candidate at the University of Alabama Birmingham and former member of Pittsburgh Superstars, Fernandez is a living testament to the importance of academic commitment. College coaches typically set academic standards and GPA requirements for team participation—every member must maintain their grades to remain part of the program.
Game day cheerleading injects unparalleled excitement into the collegiate cheer experience. Wiggins reveals, “Personally, I hadn’t cheered on game days before, so the experience was invigorating and brought a fresh layer of love for the sport that I didn’t think was possible.” Pellegrini’s description of the thrill reflects her enthusiasm: “I’m enamored with the essence of collegiate cheer, particularly the energy of sideline cheer. It’s been a while since I’ve done this, and cheering on the football team was an absolute blast.” Game day cheer requires a distinct skill set compared to all star cheerleading—precision in motions and adept crowd leadership are paramount. Wiggins emphasizes, “Maintain sharp, crisp motions.” Michaluk echoes this sentiment: “Mastering the art of crowd engagement is vital. This aspect isn’t extensively practiced in the all star realm, making it crucial to arrive at college already equipped for game days.” Many teams offer clinics before tryouts to familiarize you with the program’s game day style.
Undoubtedly, one of the most challenging shifts from all star to collegiate cheer is transitioning from spring floors to the unforgiving dead floors, both for competitions and game days. Pellegrini candidly shares, “Adapting to tumbling on a dead floor after years on a spring floor was my biggest challenge. The feel and impact on my legs were entirely different. I had to essentially relearn tumbling techniques on the new surface.” Michaluk and Wiggins concur: “Adjusting to the hard floor presents a significant hurdle when transitioning from all star routines.”
For college teams that compete at national events, your journey will encompass even more exhilarating experiences and responsibilities. Conditioning and training to meet the demands of competitive cheer, all while maintaining sideline appearances and attending classes, will push your limits. Fernandez offers guidance: “If you’ve mastered the art of balancing classes and practices during the regular season, you’ll be able to adjust to the added practices leading up to nationals.” However, Wiggins offers a word of caution: “Prioritize your health and well-being above all else. Tumbling and stunting at the collegiate level require heightened technique and exertion.” The path to collegiate cheerleading is demanding, yet the rewards are immeasurable. Michaluk eloquently summarizes her experience, affirming, “In the world of All Star cheer, everything hinges on that one competition where you pour your heart and soul into the routine, leaving the crowd awestruck. The moment passes in a heartbeat, and you wish you could relive it countless times. Collegiate cheer doesn’t revolve around a solitary performance. Instead, you’re gifted with a year full of opportunities to showcase the unwavering dedication you’ve poured into perfecting your craft throughout your life.” After four years at the University of Louisville, Wiggins encapsulates her collegiate cheer journey: “Winning Daytona and Worlds and competing was undeniably incredible. However, the friendships forged and memories created along the way hold far greater value than the championship rings I earned. Embrace every single moment.”