What's It Take to Be A Husker Cheerleader?

I'm not familiar that familiar with the cheerleader program at Nebraska, and I'm guessing I'm similar to plenty of other Husker fans, so a while back (actually a few months ago), I contacted Marlon Lozano, the Husker Cheer Coach and asked him some questions about the program. He was happy to oblige.  The last few questions were answered by the cheerleader captain who will remain unnamed for this article.

My hope would be to make people more aware of how much work is required, the process, and the program. Besides that, who doesn’t like cheerleaders?

The official name of the Nebraska cheerleading unit is "Husker Spirit Squad". The Nebraska Spirit Squad is made up of 18 members of the Cheer Squad, 14 members of the Scarlets dance team, and eight mascots.

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2008 Husker Cheerleader Squad
Photo by Dennis Hubbard

How is someone selected to be a Husker cheerleader? What are the requirements?

This information provides guidelines to prepare any student interested in the 2009-10 Nebraska Spirit Squad Tryouts (Cheer or Dance Teams). The tryout will consist of four different components: academic profile, fitness and health, attitude and commitment, and technical skill (cheer or dance).  

The application for each tryout will be available in January 2009 at Huskers.com (Cheer Squad). The application, fees and any other applicable items will be due around the middle of March 2009 on a date to be determined once the application is available.  Applications, fees,and other applicable items will not be accepted after the due date has been determined and/or on the day of the tryout.

The actual tryouts for each team (Cheer and Dance) will take place during a full day early in April 2009. The date will be determined in January 2009 when the application is available.

Academic profile:  to apply for the tryouts, you must be currently (2008-09) enrolled full time at UNL or officially admitted to UNL to start classes in the Fall of 2009. To apply for admissions at UNL go to www.unl.edu (Admissions). Once you are fully admitted and have submitted your tryout application, we will be able to review your test scores, grades, GPA., class rank or any other necessary academic information. As a guideline, the average student admitted to UNL applies with an ACT score of 24. Currently the Spirit Squad holds a cumulative GPA of 3.400. Academics is the top priority for the Squad.

Fitness and Health: The pre-game show for any home football game at UNL lasts about 20 minutes, these 20 minutes have been compared to a 20 minute cardio workout, after which there is a three hour football game in which to perform. A high level of fitness and health are essential to be able to endure game day performances and practices. During the tryout you will be asked to run a mile, do an abdominal workout, run steps, or any other cardio activity to demonstrate that your fitness and endurance are well-suited for this type of activity.  An optional fitness endurance test will be offered with a choice of swimming instead of running.

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The "bare midriffs" look - Iowa State game, 2006
Photo by Jon Johnston

Attitude and commitment: The Spirit Squad consists of three different teams - The Cheer Squad, the Dance Team (Scarlets) and the Mascots (Herbie Husker and Lil' Red). As teams they are different, but they share the same purpose. Your positive attitude, commitment to this activity and basic knowledge of Nebraska Athletics is important. During the tryout, you will have an interview in a group setting in order to
find out more about you.

Technical Skill: Cheer- At tryouts, you will be taught and will then get to perform a couple of sideline cheers and an eight count routine. Additionally, you will demonstrate your best jump and high kicks. The UNL Cheer Squad does not stunt, tumble or build pyramids.

Dance - At tryouts you will be taught and will then get to perform a couple of dance routines. Additionally, you will demonstrate your technique by performing double turn, kicks, pirouette, split leap, axel, heel stretch, turning switch leap and switch leap.

Are there separate squads for different sports, or how are responsibilities for different athletic events divided? What level of commitment is required?

They all perform at football, volleyball, men's basketball, and women's basketball. Including practices, philanthropies and athletic events their commitment level is about 20 hours per week.

Besides the time at events, how many hours of week do cheerleaders spent
practicing?


Just practice is around 4 to 6 hours per week.

How many athletic events can a typical Husker cheerleader expect to attend during a season? How many community events?

All football games, then they divide all volleyball, men's basketball and women's basketball into smaller groups. Community events in the fall about three per week, in the Spring one per week.

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The old school sweater look.
Photo by Dennis Hubbard

Nebraska's cheerleader uniforms have gone kind of "retro" with a full red and white striped sweater, which runs counter to the "bare midriffs" trend in recent years.  Who's idea was that, and what's been the reaction of the squad, their families (parents/grandparents especially), fellow students, and fans?

The last couple years we used the striped sweaters on special occasions if the weather permits. The most common uniform is the all red skirt and full top with the "N" on the chest. We try to use the sweaters once or twice a year (they are very hot to wear indoors or on hot days). The idea came from the last sponsor to provide something different yet recognizable within the Husker Nation.  

The cheerleaders, families, the school, the fans love this retro look of the sweaters, no other collegiate squad in the country has such identity but wearing them is a different story. It has to be awful nice cool fall day for them to wear them.

Cheerleader Captain

Can you describe a typical football game day experience?

As a Husker cheerleader, the game day begins long before others even leave for Memorial Stadium.  We arrive at the stadium around 3 hours prior to kick off.  Our coach assigns us various locations to 'appear' at, in order to get the fans going by leading cheers and mingling. About a half an hour before kick off is the cheer and dance team's time to perform. Along with the marching band, we dance and cheer to Husker fight songs, as well as lead 80,000+ in HUSKER POWER!

The game day experience at Nebraska is one of a kind. The fans are amazingly dedicated and they love their Huskers!  The sound of the crowd during the 'Tunnel Walk' or prior to our defensive team entering the field, is deafening. Cheering for Nebraska has been an experience like none other.

How do you see your experience as a cheerleader helping you after your tenure at Nebraska?

Upon graduating from the University of Nebraska, I plan on using my Communication degree in either public relations or marketing. Being a cheerleader enables me to become a better communicator with all types of individuals.  There is no skill more important than the ability to be a competent communicator.  I also know that being a cheer captain here at Nebraska has improved my leadership skills, as well as
sharpening my organization and time management abilities.  Every part of my experience as a cheerleader will better my life outside of the University.

We hear a lot about the concept of Husker football as a "family". Does the same concept apply to cheerleading, i.e., do former cheerleaders come back for events, stay in touch with each other, or act as mentors?

The cheerleading team is definitely the equivalent to my family here in Lincoln.  We are a group of tight-knit girls, who grow extremely close over the course of a school year.  We spend many hours together practicing and perfecting our skills, even before school and football begin.  We travel together as a team, spend hours on bus rides or late nights in a hotel.  All of our experiences are memorable and I will cherish them forever. These girls are like sisters to me, even though being a captain may some times require me to act more like a mother, haha.  We keep in touch and form friendships that will last a life time.

What do you get out of being a Husker cheerleader?

My decision to be a Husker Cheerleader had nothing to do with the benefits of the position.  I believe every one of us on the squad is a cheerleader because we love Nebraska, we are excited about supporting our teams, and want the crowd to get pumped up with us.  A Husker Cheerleader doesn't do it for the glamor or fame, for there is not much to be found; but sharing a moment with a little girl while taking a
picture, and making her day is more than enough to keep us motivated.

Go Huskers!

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Yay Husker Cheerleaders!
Photo by Dennis Hubbard
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