By Nick Perry
Every fall brings something new to Oberlin. New attitudes, ambitions, resolutions, confidence levels, and wardrobes; new and infuriatingly inconvenient construction and renovations; a new slew of wide-eyed first-years; new friends who are actually old friends who have been irremediably effected by studying abroad; new problems with ResEd that are actually just the same problems that you would think they could have solved by now; well-kept girls strutting into Stevie in new OC Cheer uniforms; new classes and professors; new… wait, what? Cheerleading uniforms? As in, like, sports cheerleading?
Yes. Sports cheerleading. It may not be hip, it may not be popular, hell, it may not even be in demand – but nevertheless, a few spirited souls have been working seven days a week this fall semester to invigorate interest in Oberlin’s athletics programs in the most tried-and-true American way: by looking cute and making a lot of noise.
Alexa Wright ’14 and Kaley Diamond ’12 both had a gripe with Oberlin College when they began their enrollment here. Diamond, who had never cheered before Oberlin, used to express to her parents her discontent with the lack of a cheerleading squad, and the consequent lack of school spirit. Her parents suggested she start her own squad, but Diamond, an avid dancer, instead found comfort in the hip-hop dance crew And What!?, and let the cheer dream take a nap.
Towards the end of her junior year, that dream was shaken awake when she met Wright, an ambitious first-year who wasn’t okay with the perfunctory, disheartened “Yeo baby, Yeo baby, Yeo” being the best chant this campus has to offer. A gymnast as a child and a cheerleader in high school, Wright saw the absence of a cheerleading squad and knew she had the history and capabilities to fill that void. Teaming up last March, Wright and Diamond began an incredibly painless and supported journey to revise and revive the Oberlin College Cheerleading Club charter and return spirit to the forefront of Oberlin athletics.
In 2006, a cheerleader very publicly fell from atop a pyramid at a football game, initiating the demise of Oberlin’s Cheerleading Club. That injury prompted the school to restrict the club’s activities, prohibiting stunting and tumbling (which are unequivocally the coolest things about cheerleading), after which participation simply fizzled out. The club’s charter, however, was still intact when Wright and Diamond decided to bring OC Cheer back to life.
Under the advisory of Lori Morgan Flood, director of Wellness and Health Promotion, Wright and Diamond revised the charter to meet the College’s liability concerns, limiting the squad to cheering, dancing, and jumping. Once the charter was accepted, they began advertising for tryouts last spring. The tryout process yielded a team of twelve women (two of whom are abroad and plan to cheer in the spring—talk about dedication), only half of who have any experience cheering.
After the squad was formed, Wright and Diamond delved into their severely limited funds to purchase those cutesy yet durable uniforms that you may have seen around campus. Marking initial success, OC Cheer was active at Oberlin’s first football game on September 3.
The football team routed Kenyon 42-0, and although nobody ran over to kiss his cheerleader girlfriend on the sidelines during a timeout, it’s probably fair to say all the guys were trying to show off for the ladies by rubbing Kenyon’s face in it.
“The football team loves [the squad],” says Wright, who has fielded compliments from players and parents alike, as well as some alumni who have been somewhat creepily in contact via Facebook. “[The parents] are really happy with us because they don’t see a lot of student participation at the games,” she notes, aware that the mere presence of a cheerleading squad lends legitimacy and a certain degree of spirit to the athletic program.
Speaking of her experience at the first game, Diamond remarks, “I seriously almost cried because their parents were so sweet, like, ‘Oh, come take a picture with Grandma!’” The OC football community has been thrilled with the cheer presence – an encouraging sign for the future of the cheerleading club.
Despite early semester successes, Wright, Diamond, and the squad still face challenges for the future. Funding, as for most campus clubs, is still a major issue, and Wright and Diamond understand the cost of achieving their goals. They hope to one day begin traveling with teams for away games, and overcome the ban on stunting and tumbling. Fundraising has become a key component to the club, not only for monetary gain but also to demonstrate their responsibility and dedication to restoring OC Cheer to its pre-2006 glory days. They held a car wash at the beginning of the semester (a la Bring It On) and plan on booking ‘Sco nights throughout the school year. Although they missed an opportunity to organize a Homecoming dance, Wright and Diamond are eager to sponsor a campus-wide formal, which no doubt scores of hipsters and nerds will adamantly refer to as a Yule Ball.
Wright and Diamond hope to get the student body involved in other ways as well. As they are still recycling cheers from high school, the squad is looking for new, Yeomen-specific ideas. Although they are “still mastering [their] first set of cheers,” Wright and Diamond aim to hold a cheer writing contest in the near future. By reaching out to the student body and fully engaging in the athletics department, OC Cheer may be the first step to building a competent fan-base that isn’t outnumbered in its home stadiums.
Wright, Diamond, and the rest of the Oberlin Cheerleading Club will be attending as many games and matches as they can this year. They encourage athletes to invite them to events so they may spread the cheer love across programs and build interest in different teams. If you happen to see them at a game, say hi, ask about the program, and suggest a cheer if you know one. Alexa insists, “This is totally a cheerocracy.”
OC Cheer will be present at Savage Stadium this Saturday at 1 PM for the Homecoming
game against Hiram College.