By: Collin Frazier
While it’s not technically a varsity sport at the University of Findlay, the UF cheerleaders put in some serious work to contribute to the Oiler spirit at football and basketball games.
Senior cheerleader Mackenzie Wagner is beginning her fourth year as a cheerleader at UF and the practice schedule alone shows the dedication these student athletes have to their craft.
The team begins practice bright and early Tuesday and Thursday at 5 a.m., as well as on Fridays with the band. Once the routines are ready to go, the cheerleaders will spend another three or more hours during football games cheering the team on. Not only do the cheerleaders spend time getting ready and pumping up the crowd, they also take time volunteering around the community, accumulating from four to ten hours of volunteer work a week.
To keep the cheers fresh and the crowd learning new ones, Wagner says that they incorporate different cheers during the game.
“We have actually over 40 different cheers,” says Wagner. “We make a different, what we call, a ‘pre-game’ every year, so when the band goes through the tunnel and when the football players run out, our dances and formations change every year, and they even change after the first game.”
Along with most sports, cheerleading does involve risks through stunting, risks that must be combated both physically and mentally by the cheerleaders.
“It takes a lot of strength building pre-season,” Wagner commented. “It’s kind of put before [the season that] you’re holding someone’s life in your hands. I know that sounds kind of crazy, but it really is that serious. Injuries can occur. So, we really try to build our strength up and we practice drills a lot and we don’t ever move on to something bigger unless we’re completely hitting everything before we move to building something on top of each other.”
Along with being able to cheer the teams on, Wagner says the most rewarding aspect of cheerleading is being able to be someone to look up to.
“We have quite a few little girls that love to come down and take pictures with us. So, just knowing that we might be someone’s role model [and] someday might influence them to become an Oiler Cheerleader someday is probably the best part for us [the cheer team],” said Wagner.