Cheerleading Blog: Courtside Chameleons at Crisler Center
Tierney Wixted

Feb. 13, 2014

Throughout the year, members of the Michigan cheerleading team will provide their views on cheering at Michigan and their roles as student-athletes. In this edition of the blog, sophomore Tierney Wixted explains what is really happening on the sidelines during a basketball game at Crisler Center. With a number of big home games coming up for the men's and women's teams, the cheer team knows it must be polished and in-sync to uphold its part in the gameday experience.

What is it like to run courtside along the chaos but not be shooting beneath the basket? Step down from the bleachers and join the Michigan cheer team. We may not be the ones lighting up the scoreboard, but we've still got to keep our eyes on the ball.

It's all smiles, chants of enthusiasm, and the occasional rippling sideline dance when the band gets into the groove, but a lot more goes on behind the cheerleading scenes than this team lets on.

If you have ever wondered (at least we hope you have) how the acrobatic entertainment comes together seemingly effortlessly amongst the crowd's rambunctious rallying, the PA announcements and all of the buzzers -- with just seconds to spare -- it doesn't all come naturally for this team. We, too, have a book of meticulously practiced plays to run. These plays are our pyramids. Each one fits into different time constraints or breaks in the game, with synchronized counts that each person must have internalized.

I am sure any Michigan fan could tell you games at Crisler Center rarely disappoint when it comes to the rowdiness factor. Just like the players on the court are trying to communicate over the commotion, trying to hear one of my teammates call a pyramid can be next to impossible. And with the quick swipe of the basketball and a switch from offense to defense, everyone's cued to alter the cheer or number of repetitions, all while our coaches pass us our next timeout performance via a discrete game of telephone.

We might be keeping track of as many as a dozen pyramids per game, ranging from five to 10 eight-counts in length. Every pyramid or tumbling pass features a different number of counts, a new stunting partner to work with, a different role and placement, and not mention many, many last-minute adjustments due to injuries or absences.

We have all become familiar with the term "adaptability" (along with Coach Tyzo's smirk when she says it), and I'm certain every member of this team will be able to use that as one of our impressive personal skills when asked by a future prospective employer.

With the number of things that can -- and often do -- go wrong in the cheerleading realm, we've got to be chameleon-like in our adaptability. That is the only way to get the job done without missing a beat (or a count, more appropriately) so the crowd can't detect a hint of change or uncertainty in our works.

Timing is everything, in love and in cheer, and if even one person is off, you can expect a domino effect to ensue. When we aren't shaking our poms and delivering free pizzas to lucky game-goers, our heads are truly in the game -- and more than one game!

Go Blue!