The USD cheer team prides itself on building spirit, supporting athletic teams and perfecting difficult stunts while cheering on the Coyotes.
The cheer team’s primary goal is to keep excitement going for a game by pumping up the crowd. The team cheers at all home football and men’s and women’s basketball games. There are also eight traveling members who attend away games.
Cheering at games is a tradition, and a way to get the crowd excited for a game, said junior base Hailey Freidel.
“Alumni and parents really like traditional things, and cheerleading is a very traditional sport,” she said. “When there’s a third down and the crowd’s down and out and the football team needs us to get the crowd pumped up and ready to go, we’re there to do that. It’s a part of a D1 atmosphere to have a spirit program trying to make the game day overall a fun experience and enticing place to be.”
A love for the sport
First-year flyer Sydney Sutten said she joined the team because she was impressed with USD’s program.
“I looked into their cheer program and thought it would be fun to be involved in something like that,” she said. “It provides you with great friends.”
Freidel said she joined to continue a family tradition — her mother and sister both cheered at USD — and also to build relationships.
“It’s a good way for freshman to transition and meet new people you normally wouldn’t be acquainted with,” she said. “It’s nice to see other cheerleaders on campus when you’re a freshman because you feel more welcome at the university.”
Senior Kourtney Isaacson joined the team her junior year, but has always been interested in cheering.
“I decided I might as well try out and see if I make it, and I did,” she said. “I’ve loved it since.”
Sutten said being a flyer can be overwhelming, but exciting.
“It does kind of get nervewracking being the center of attention and being in front of that many people and the eye of everything,” she said. “It’s a lot of pressure being up there, but it’s super fun.”
Being a base means being the foundation of the stunt, Isaacson said.
“We put up all the stunts, we catch the flyers. We’re the ones controlling the stunt from the ground to the top from the time it comes back down again,” she said. “If you don’t have a solid base, the whole thing just crumbles to the ground.”
Freidel said both bases and flyers play an important role.
“Each part is equally as important — they’d be doing nothing without us, and we’d be doing nothing without them,” she said.
Practice makes perfect
The cheer team practices four times a week. They have a two-hour practice on Sundays, a lifting session and practice on Tuesdays, a mandatory open gym on Wednesdays and another lifting session and practice on Thursdays. Fridays are typically bonding sessions, and Saturdays the team prepares for game day.
There are times at practice where the team endures a lot of injuries, said Freidel.
“Typically there’s not much recovery time because it’s normal,” she said. “Your body is used to getting beat up.”
If a stunt doesn’t go as planned during game day or practice, the team has to stay after to perfect it.
“Usually that never happens because it’s so embarrassing that you don’t want it to happen,” Freidel said. “It’s a good lesson-learner because you don’t want to look that way on game day.”
The team started lifting and training last year in the Sanford Coyote Sports Center, and Isaacson said there’s been a noticeable difference in their performance.
“You could definitely tell after the first couple of weeks or month and a half the difference in our basing,” she said. “People were getting stronger legs, stronger arms, better cores. And the flyers, they were doing exercises for their stability and flexibility, and we’re (bases) more brutes, getting into heavy lifting.”
An important role
To get ready for a game, the cheerleaders have to be up at 8 a.m. for pregame with the band and then be on the field for the game by 11 a.m. From there they do stunts and cheer until the game is over by around 5 p.m.
“It gets to be a pretty long day when you stand for eight to 10 hours straight,” Freidel said.
Isaacson said cheerleading shouldn’t be treated as a “sissy” sport.
“I feel like people think we just put on a pretty face and we go out there and cheer, but we actually get knocked around pretty good, and it’s a lot harder than people probably expect it to be, just because they don’t realize the skill and strength it takes to be a cheerleader,” she said.
Sutten said the football team’s recent wins contribute to how well the cheerleaders perform.
“It’s also fun when we have a football team that’s doing so well,” Sutten said. “It makes it so much more intense and makes the atmosphere so fun to be there.”
Cheerleading serves as an important role to get the crowd going during a game, Freidel said.
“Watching the crowd respond to cheers and how well the game is going is so fun to see from the field,” she said. “Being able to be part of game day in some aspect gets my foot in the door.”