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Cheerleading at MSU

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It’s not often that students who study abroad participate in any of their host universities team sports, especially if their program is only 3 weeks long. However, two of our Global Study students decided to immerse themselves completely in their study abroad experience and organised a training session with their host university Michigan State’s cheer team to experience sport and team spirit from a new perspective.
Meet Lainie and Erin, both study at La Trobe University, both are on LTU’s cheer team and here’s the best part, both are good friends who decided to study abroad together! We caught up with them today to hear about their experience at Michigan State University and chat about different perspectives on college sport, team spirit and most importantly, cheerleading!

1. How did you guys get into cheer?

Lainie: I got into cheerleading after growing up dancing through primary school and high school as a way to stay fit and something fun to do outside of school hours. I’d always seen cheerleading movies and it was something I’ve always wanted to try so when I started university I did cheerleading to help me settle into university life and make some friends.

2. What does cheerleading mean to you? And what drew you to this sport over others?

Lainie: Cheerleading for me has always been about the team and how close everyone is. You get to stunt and tumble as well as dance and it’s something really different to most other sports. I’ve made heaps of great friends doing a university sport as well as had heaps of great opportunities come out of it such as getting to perform at Melbourne Rebels games and represent my university at a state and national level and through this program in a sense, we got to take it overseas.

3. Most people don’t actually realise how intense cheerleading can be as a sport, given the amount of training that goes into routines. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Maybe a rundown on your training regime.

Lainie: Cheerleading takes a lot of commitment purely because you can’t put up a stunt if someone is missing and if you’re not there your group can’t train which isn’t much fun. We train twice a week as a team working on stunts and our routine for 1.5 hours each. We usually warm up at the start; sometimes we do conditioning as well, then spend the rest of the session working on stunts and routines.  In the end, we kind of debrief and talk about how we went both good and bad. We also have a tumble class once a week for 1 hour which also involves some conditioning.
If you’re working towards a skill most of us will tumble in another session, other than that, one hour of one on one with a coach or in a small group to get extra help.

We’re all expected to be working on our own strength and fitness outside of these trainings as well.

4. It’s awesome that you’re all friends and studied abroad together. What made you guys want to do it?

Lainie: We all wanted to see what it was like to study outside of Australia. How everything is run differently, how content is taught, what its like to live on campus as here in Australia most of us are still living at home and meet new people as well.

5. And what drew you to the US?

Lainie: The US is what we’re used to seeing in movies and TV shows and they are also massive on sport, so we were all really interested to see if life there was similar to what we had seen on the screen, as well as all the different food options they have.

6. You guys trained with Michigan States cheer squad for the day which is pretty great. Is this something you organised in advance or did it just sort of happen?

Lainie: We attended a training session with the Michigan state coed cheer team who we had been in contact with before the trip. They invited us to join in, however, they are a higher level than what we are, but it was great to see them train.  As athletes, they are all really independent and I guess a lot of them have been doing it their whole lives.

We also did a training session with the MSU Pom Pon team which Kellie organised for us prior to arrival. We did a conditioning session with the team, and they taught us some skills which are big in their sport such as the kick line and they also taught us their fight song routine which they perform at games. For us, this was something really different to what we have here in Australia as our college cheerleaders and dancers don’t actually perform at our sporting games we only compete in routines as representatives of our home universities.

7. American universities are known to be way more into school spirit and competitive sport, which would have been pretty interesting to experience – were there any significant differences that stood out to you between Australian and American cheer teams?

Lainie: They definitely have a lot more school spirit and pride than we do here in Australia which was really amazing to see and something that I wish we had here, where they all support each other so much, their school colours are worn really proudly.
Here you kind of attend your university and you love your team but its nothing compared to what they have.  Someone there literally said that “their blood runs green”, that’s how dedicated they are to their university. And the whole community gets behind them and supports them too.

8. What was the best thing about your study abroad experience?

Lainie: The best thing was seeing how different it is there. Sport is so much more important to them and ingrained in their lives whether they play or they just support them. I guess university is a bigger part of their lives due to most people living on campus as well. The university was massive and it was an amazing campus.

9. As far as experiences go, did you guys bring back any stories or new routines with you?

Lainie: There were so many amazing things that happened over the trip, we got extremely close with everyone as we were living with each other, we learned a lot from meeting people and making friends with other students who were on campus at the time that we still talk to every day! We actually have plans to go back and visit them 🙂
The squirrels on campus will be missed, they were the cutest things ever. We will not miss the 30-minute walk from Owen hall to Brody for dinner.

10. And finally! what is one stereotype or cliché about cheerleaders that you’d like to eliminate?

Lainie: Cheerleaders are seen as very cliquey/ unwelcoming etc. We found that they were so so welcoming. They talked us through so much about their sport, how they got into it, what its like during the school year and were equally interested in us and what its like in Australia. We loved meeting them. They’re also extremely supportive of each other and the motivation within the team and love for each other is amazing.

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