A Pandora playlist plays in the background as the sound of the spring floor in Gym C at Kolf Sports Center bangs from the impact of tumbling passes.
The sound of athletic tape being ripped and wrapped around the wrists of the athletes present in the Monday night open gym can be heard as the UW Oshkosh cheerleading team works towards its next season.
The UWO cheerleading team is dedicated to showcasing school spirit, and, in doing so, they can be found at every home football and basketball game cheering on the Titans.
Cheerleading president and senior Taylor Ehrmann said it is important for the team to represent UWO and spread school spirit.
“I think we do a lot for the campus,” Ehrmann said. “We are at most football games, most basketball games and I think we do pump up the crowd a little bit, especially to outside adults. I have been recognized at restaurants before. They’re like, ‘hey, you’re a cheerleader.’ It’s really neat. I think every school needs cheerleaders.”
Ehrmann said being at every home event for the two main sports at Oshkosh comes with a lot of recognition.
“We went to the football game in Virginia,” Ehrmann said. “I think everyone really appreciated us being there. We had at least 20 different parents come up and say, ‘thank you for coming.’ So people definitely like us there.”
Ehrmann said although cheering on UWO at football and basketball games is important to the team, it is not their sole purpose.
“What people see at football and basketball games isn’t what we do,” Ehrmann said. “We mostly prepare for competitions, and that takes hours of practice.”
The team does multiple competitions throughout the year with their two main ones being the Wisconsin Association of Cheer/Poms Coaches state competition and Cheer Ltd. Nationals, which is held in Myrtle Beach, SC.
Ehrmann said in order to showcase a solid routine at a competition and to be able to compete with other larger schools, hours of practice are a must.
“When people actually see a routine, there is so much that actually goes into it,” Ehrmann said. “We do tumbling, we do pyramids, we do basket tosses and we do a lot more athletic stuff. Putting together a whole routine is two and a half minutes of just pure non-stop moving and if we mess up once, there goes first place. If we don’t hit something that we are suppose to do, that’s it. You got one shot.”
Ehrmann said the two and a half minutes of their routine includes tumbling, both running and standing, four and two-man stunting, pyramids, choreographed dance and cheer.
The whole routine is done to synchronized music and is reviewed by a panel of judges who will deduct from the overall score if the routine looks sloppy or if anything fails.
Ehrmann said because of how in-sync everything needs to be, cheerleading is very team-oriented, especially with a team as big as UWO’s. Out of the 18 members of the team this past season, three were men.
One of those men was junior cheerleader Marcus Rias, who said he joined the UWO cheerleading team not knowing what to expect.
“When you think of cheerleading, you think of peppy girls cheering at football and basketball games on the sidelines,” Rias said. “You don’t really think about guy cheerleaders, so in all honesty, I didn’t have any expectations coming in. I just came in willing to learn.”
Rias said he joined cheerleading to try something he has never done before and to broaden his reach of new experiences.
“All my life I have done football, track – just basic male-dominant sports, and I just wanted to try something different,” Rias said.
Sophomore cheerleader Matt Rasmussen began cheerleading during his sophomore year of high school at Wisconsin Rapids, and said before joining, he did not know everything cheerleading entails.
“When I joined, I didn’t really know anything about competitions,” Rasmussen said. “I just joined because I wanted to learn how to do flips and stuff, but after I started competing I thought, ‘okay this is actually pretty cool.’ A lot of people don’t really understand the competition part.”
Rasmussen said after doing it for a few years, he has gotten so interested in cheer that he is transferring to Arkansas State University next year for the sole reason of being able to compete in Division I cheerleading.
Ehrmann said although there is much more to cheerleading than what meets the eye, the team does a lot of things people would expect a cheer team to do.
The team represents UWO at community functions, cheers on participants during walks/runs and hosts cheerleading clinics for local schools. The team was even invited to cheer on the wrestling team for a meet.
Ehrmann said being a cheerleader, especially at the college level, helps her interact with the community more.
“A lot of younger people really look up to us,” Ehrmann said. “When we go to help out Omro, we do the grade school, the middle school and the high school, and it is really neat. I have done it for three years now, and I have watched some of them grow and I’m like, ‘wow, this is so cute.’ It is really neat.”