Dec. 14, 2012
University of Michigan director of athletics Dave Brandon will regularly offer his view on a variety of topics related to U-M and intercollegiate sports. All his posts, along with links to related content, will be available on his page, mgoblue.com/brandon, and he is also on Twitter at @DaveBrandonAD.
When the Michigan Athletic Department announced we were adding men's and women's lacrosse, as two new varsity sports, we upped our commitment to support approximately 885 student-athletes competing in 29 sports.
This commitment is imperative. We are not only helping shape the next generation of Wolverines, but also the next generation of leaders who will leave here and help change the world. We are creating positive academic and athletic experiences by providing resources that will help them be successful in the classroom and competition.
It doesn't stop there.
We also work to create positive experiences for our fans. An integral part of the experience for fans, and student-athletes alike, is the atmosphere and spirit generated during our competitive matches. To do this, we are working closer with the Michigan marching and pep bands -- and recently we have asked our cheerleaders and dance team to become a more integral part of our team.
To accomplish this effort, we are going to support these teams in many ways as we do a varsity sport. Pam St. John (cheerleading) and Valerie Stead Potsos (dance) are the two coaches who have been leading these teams. They are excited their programs will have a more integrated role within the athletic department.
To a certain degree, cheerleading has always been supported as an athletic activity. Over the years, gymnasts, divers and other U-M student-athletes have been a part of Michigan cheerleading. In fact, legendary coaches Newt Loken (gymnastics) and Dick Kimball (diving) both were our cheerleading coach at different times during their careers, spanning a period of more than 20 years.
Cheer has become a highly competitive sport these days. There are now more than 1.5 million participants in competitive cheerleading. Daily practice and year-round training are all part of the expectations for cheerleaders, as it is for our other student-athletes.
Our dance team is no different. Started in the late 1990s by a request from the men's basketball program, the dance team has grown into an athletic department spirit group that makes contributions to our events and activities in a significant way. Classified as a club sport by the University, the athletic department also recognizes and appreciates the efforts of this group, and will provide resources and support services to them as well.
Both of these teams are being asked to do more than ever before. They represent U-M at more than just sporting events. Alumni activities, TV specials, donor engagement and other community events are making these students more visible -- and more important to the University of Michigan.
They need to perform and compete at a high level and represent the U-M in the manner we're all accustomed. We have high expectations for all of our teams, including our cheer and dance teams!
The cheerleading team has participated in national competitions in the past and placed second at the 2012 National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) and National Dance Alliance (NDA) Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championship. In the last five years, U-M has placed no lower than fourth place in this competition.
The dance team is also a competitive organization. They have finished in the top 10 nationally in each of the past eight years.
As other collegiate cheerleading and dance teams are getting additional support from their schools, Michigan will step up and help our teams who have played such an integral role in the spirit and atmosphere at our athletic events, while representing U-M in so many different ways.
Even though the Michigan Athletic Department still has 29 varsity sports, the commitment to both of these programs will now bring our support to well over 925 students.
Just consider these our 30th and 31st teams at Michigan Athletics!!
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