September 29, 2016

Webster University adds competitive cheerleading

CORRECTION: The original version of this story contained erroneous information regarding the projected schedule of the team, and the position at Webster University of the Head Coach, Justin Barton. The correct information has been updated.

The new cheerleading squad at Webster University will incorporate jumps, stunts, and more action to help bolster school spirit on campus and at sporting events. And, the team will eventually compete in cheerleading competitions.

gorokThis new squad, which was announced on Jan. 13, will perform tumbling and cheer chants. The team will compete in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and the NCAA division III. Formation of the squad will begin in April after new student orientation. As far as competition goes, the squad will not be ready until Fall 2015. New Head Coach Justin Barton said the team will be distinct from cheerleading currently at Webster.  (Barton is also the Assistant Director for First Year Experience Programs.)

“This program is completely different from what cheerleading has ever been on campus before.  They didn’t compete or do stunts,” Barton said. “They were mainly there to support basketball games,” he said.

Director of Athletics Scott Kilgallon said the cheerleading program will be under the athletics umbrella, and they want to run it like an NCAA program.

“It’s part of Webster’s strategic plan for growth, and to also get some spirit here on campus. And it’ll be a nice component to add to the athletic program and get people excited about sports,” Kilgallon said.

The goal is to bring students to the university from high schools who are looking to continue their passion for cheer. Since there are not a lot of colleges offering competitive cheer, Kilgallon hopes having the sport at Webster will make the school more attractive to potential students.

The first team tryouts will be held Sunday, Apr. 26 from 11-3 p.m. in the Grant Gymnasium.

Barton said he would like to have a 14-20 member co-ed squad and will communicate with high schools, community colleges and all-star gyms in Missouri and Illinois to recruit new students into the program.

Barton said the most important thing he is looking for in new members is not gymnastics skills.

“In all honesty, first and most important is their attitude. I can train a mediocre cheerleader to become an excellent cheerleader with skill if they’ve got the right attitude. The other thing, if they have the ability to learn quickly, and the ability to want to learn,” Barton said.

Barton said tumbling skills are considered bonus points because in the state of Missouri, it is difficult to find programs from high schools that produce extensive tumbling experience.

“It comes down to training them in the fundamentals. It’s always perfection before progression. It’s working with the basics, and I’m very much a let’s start with the basics type of coach and then work our way up. And, the key about cheerleading and competing at that high of a level is cleanliness over difficulty every single time,” Barton said.

Even though routines are generally only two minutes and 30 seconds, scoring is strict and demanding.

The top two competitive organizations are the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) and the Universal Cheerleaders of America (UCA). Barton said it is costly to perform at these levels, and he is looking to be fiscally responsible in regard to how the squad competes, and to be sure they are ready.

Some of the fees associated with competitive cheerleading include yearly registration, practice clothing and uniforms, cheer shoes, hair bows, competition fees, hotel stays and performance music fees. And these do not include any outside costs for personal gymnastics lessons or private training for individuals.

“People need to know, we’re going to start smart, and we’re going to start humble and build ourselves up. Mainly, we’re here to provide a new spirit experience on campus. Competition is important, but it’s not really the foundation of why I’m doing it. I’m doing it because I believe it’s important and a good recruitment tool,” Barton said.

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