New Squad Cheers for the Blazers
Elms College students have been cheering the Blazers for years, but this fall, the rustle of pom-pons is adding to the spirited noise.
Ashlee McNamee '09 has paid her cheering dues. She was a cheerleader in high school and for the semi-professional Western Mass Warriors football team, and coached aspiring cheerleaders on local high school and college-level teams. Unfortunately, she never got to exercise her passion for the highly gymnastic sport on the Elms College campus-until now.
As the new assistant residence director, Ashlee became eligible to advise a student organization and wasted no time gauging the interest for starting a cheerleading squad. At the first meeting, she spoke to more than 20 students who were eager to cheer, and following a round of tryouts, formed a team of 16, including one male student, and ranging from first years to seniors. The squad is now a regular fixture at men's and women's home basketball games.
Kordel Latimer '13, a computer information technology major and the only male on the squad, knew Ashlee through his work as a resident assistant, but had no prior experience with cheerleading. "I've been a dancer since freshman year of high school, I've been a breakdancer all my life...but I'm glad I got this experience," he said.
Although Elms College has had a dance team for years, there was no insurance clearance for an activity that was a little more physical. "I really didn't want to do it if there wasn't a lot of interest or if we couldn't stunt, tumble, and jump," Ashlee said. "We already have a dance team, and I'm really not a dancer," she laughed.
Senior nursing major Arica Schnopps is the team captain and a veteran cheerleader. "At first I thought it was going to be really difficult because of nursing and time management," she said. "I've cheered from elementary school, to middle school, to high school," she said, adding that the squad's presence has attracted more fans to the games and helped spark their school spirit.
Junior nursing major Izilda Barbosa agreed that her course load makes extracurricular activities more challenging, but was grateful that Ashlee, who is a working nurse at Mercy Hospital, has been a good resource for time management and inspiring her to "release stress through cheering."
As a club with no athletics funding, the cheerleaders had to raise funds for their uniforms and pom-pons, selling dog treats and leading a casino trip to pay for their gear. The cheerleaders and their coach hope to grow the program, and have set their sights on a cheerleading camp next summer, and starting to compete. Ashlee already has three prospective students signed up from a fall open house, and will continue to attend admissions events to recruit.
The cheerleading season runs from September through March.