March 17, 2014
Throughout the year, members of the Michigan cheerleading team will offer their views on what happens when you cannot see the squad on the sidelines or courtside. This week, senior Chris Fraga reveals the hard work the team is putting in for the upcoming NCA Collegiate Cheer Championship (April 9-12). Michigan is the defending national champion in its division.
The alarm goes off. It's almost seven in the morning. Most college students wouldn't even think about being up at this hour unless they had an exam in an hour. But for the members of the cheer team, we are up and heading to practice. Yep, we're up at the crack of dawn to hit those pyramids and know our chants.
What you may not know is that we do more than just practice being on the sidelines; we also practice to compete. That's right, your favorite Michigan cheerleaders are practicing for NCA College Nationals April 9-12 in Daytona Beach, Fla.
How important is nationals? In a word, very.
Halfway through the fall semester we start preparing -- that begins with tryouts for which of us will be on the nationals team. The top 20 members of the team get to represent the University of Michigan at nationals. Honing in on nationals then begins in earnest with the creation of the routine using our coaches' knowledge and the help of a professional choreographer.
Once winter semester starts in January, focus shifts completely to nationals. Our pyramids and timeout routines for the basketball games are constructed so that we can practice parts of the routine while still entertaining the crowds at Crisler Center.
During the March 1 men's basketball game vs. Minnesota, we performed a portion of our routine during halftime. This performance was not only beneficial to us getting to practice our routine in front of a crowd but also shows everyone what else we do when we aren't in the Big House or Crisler cheering on your favorite college football and basketball teams.
The performance went very well. There were minor slip-ups in terms of timing, but overall everyone was happy with the performance. We went out with a strong mental attitude, very energized and ready to perform.
After a very successful performance, our coaches gave us a debriefing which was all smiles and congratulations. "There is still room for improvement," was the consensus from the coaches, "but overall it was a great performance and we couldn't be happier."
Even with a strong performance under our belts, we still have plenty of work ahead of us. Fine tuning the routine to perfection is the focus of the next month in preparation for the big competition. We have a lot to live up to, being national champions last year, and more than enough on our plates with the basketball tournaments also on our schedule. But we can handle it, especially with basketball going to the finals of the NCAA tournament.
To my team: Excellent job so far. We've put in a lot of hard work ever since preseason to go out and perform our best. But we're not done yet. We still have a national championship to win come April.
Do it for the ring. It makes a ringing early-morning alarm worth it.