Recruiting Horror Stories™ are posted every Tuesday to provide athletes’ first-hand experiences of what can go wrong during the recruiting process.
Imagine spending your entire summer practicing to earn your spot on the college cheer team. Now, imagine that after spending all this time prepping to earn a spot on the team, you get an email one week before tryouts telling you that the coaches have all been fired and the team is no longer allowed to compete. It is hard to imagine that everything you have worked so hard for can change in an instant, yet here **Jessica sat in this very scenario.
Jessica dedicated much of her young life to excelling at cheer. She was not the usual cheerleader though, spending most of her time on the sidelines of her high school football and basketball games. In addition to the usual cheerleading activities, Jessica was a part of a squad that was involved in the world of competitive cheerleading. Jessica spent many hours during the week in non-air-conditioned gyms and warehouses training and getting stronger for stunt work. Practices were devoted to memorizing and perfecting routines that lasted only minutes but required hours of intensive work. She tediously studied these routines to ensure she got her timing down perfectly because everyone on the squad relied on matching timing to guarantee a win and prevent a tumble.
Cheerleading was not something Jessica considered being a part of when she went to college. In fact, even into her senior year of high school, Jessica was extremely unsure of where she wanted to attend college. All of that changed during her senior year because her high school cheer team got new coaches. They were catapulted from being at the bottom of their division, to winning first place in their competition. This win gave them the opportunity to compete in regionals, increasing Jessica’s desire to pursue competitive cheerleading during college.
Now, Jessica could look at schools where she could pursue her academic goals but also be on the Division I competitive cheer circuit. To get more experience and start scoping out cheer squads, Jessica attended university cheer clinics.
During her attendance at one university’s cheer clinic, she was heavily involved in difficult stunt work and was able to demonstrate her skills. The coaches took notice of her ability and proceeded to recruit her for their squad. They told Jessica that she had the potential to make the squad during tryouts if she continued to practice and develop her skills. This exchange cemented Jessica’s interest in the university.
It is important to note that the way an athlete is recruited for Division I cheerleading is a different process than many other sports. Unlike other sports, where you are recruited and sign for a spot on the team during your senior year of high school, cheer requires you to communicate with the coach, express your interest, and then try out once you are a student at the school.
This connection with the cheer coach, the fact that the school was no more than 30 minutes from her home, and that they had a program she wanted to pursue solidified her interest in the school. She applied and was accepted into the school, starting as a freshman in 2017. Jessica spent her summer practicing and perfecting her skills so she could gain a spot on the squad.
Then, everything changed. One week before tryouts, Jessica got an email from the school stating that the cheer coaches had all been fired. Not only that, but the cheer squad had been banned from competing, thus dropping their DI status. Jessica never received any explanation for the change in coaches or why the team had been banned. Even with this news, she still went to try outs but instead of being a competitive cheerleader, she was now a “glorified sideline team.”
Jessica says that from the moment that the school caused a change in the cheerleading programs status, it changed the structure of the team. Older members of the squad were upset with how the program was altered so quickly and in such a dramatic way. Jessica was no longer having fun and was no longer involved in something she spent her youth admiring.
**Jessica (a pseudonym used as she wanted to remain anonymous)
* Originally published on October 19, 2021, by Rebecca Lutz