This past weekend, the Muhlenberg cheerleading team had their second event of the year, cheering on Muhlenberg football during their home game against Ursinus College.
The cheerleading team cheers at home games for the football team and both the men’s and women’s basketball teams. They are set to have an extremely busy fall semester; the football team is at the start of its season and will play into November, and both of the basketball teams will begin their seasons in early November. They will be cheerleading for the basketball teams into the spring semester as both of the teams’ seasons stretch into the next calendar year.
Emily Plowright ‘23 spoke about what a normal week is like for a cheerleader when they’re in season. “Every week, we have two practices that are each two and a half hours long and two lifting sessions in the weight room. We also meet two or more hours before the football games to warm-up and fundraise for the team through our 50/50 raffles. In the past, we would have cheer workouts on our own, but we just started getting official lifting times through the school’s athletic trainers. This is a huge accomplishment for us because we’ve been working towards becoming more recognized as a sport through the College.”
Despite cheerleading not being recognized, Co-Captain Ava Bianchi ‘23 maintained a positive outlook. “I’m from Long Island and cheer is considered a sport there, so it was a weird transition from being completely included within athletics to being on the ‘outskirts.’ However, I think that cheerleading not being considered a sport allows the team more time to get involved in other ways around campus since we do not have a required amount of days we need to practice and condition.
Former cheerleader Ashleigh Correll ‘22 shed light on the fact that as a result of not being recognized as an official team, funding is constantly a problem. “Funding has always been an issue. We’ve always had to work towards raising money for essential items like uniforms, poms, jackets, and bags. We relied on fundraising and donations to get these things. The team’s main source of income was selling raffle tickets at the football games. We worked just as hard as any other team, just to be overlooked by athletics,” said Correll.
Head Coach Tara White talked about how the team prepares for a year of cheerleading. “Our team does two major fundraisers a year in order to pay for any expenses during the season. Our fundraising efforts have allowed the team to purchase game attire as well as preseason necessities,” White said. She added, “Our team returns to school early every summer for preseason to begin working on cheers, chants, band dances, and stunts in order to help prepare us for performing at the games.”
Besides cheering at the home games for the football and basketball teams, the cheerleading team is active through other events at ‘Berg. “I’ve coached at Muhlenberg for the past three years and in that time the school has included us in more opportunities including Mulementum, Mule Madness, and Chi Alpha Sigma,” said White.
However, the team does not compete in competitive cheering competitions against other schools’ cheerleading teams. White commented on that subject, saying, “Currently, we do not compete. Unfortunately, there are few competitions at the collegiate level for D-III schools. Competing is something that has been discussed, however we have had some setbacks and continue to work on growing to ready us for competition in the future.”
Plowright commented on why she was interested in joining the team. “Personally, I knew I wanted to cheer in college before I even started applying to schools. I started cheering in 6th grade and all throughout high school, so it’s been something I’m passionate about for awhile. Cheering at Muhlenberg has given me the opportunities to meet so many new people, and it has given me a lot of structure to balance out my academics,” said Plowright.
Bianchi shared that sentiment and was determined to continue cheering at Muhlenberg, like she did in high school. “I was interested in joining cheer because of my prior experience and I knew it would be a great way to make friends as a freshman,” Bianchi said.
White also expressed why she accepted the coaching position, saying “Prior to coaching at Muhlenberg I had coached for over 20 years for various teams including recreational, high school, all-star and college. I always enjoyed coaching at the collegiate level, and three years ago, in 2018, I was not coaching. When I found out Muhlenberg was looking for a cheerleading coach, I applied for the position with the hope of sharing my knowledge and years of experience as a coach to help the team grow and work towards achieving their goals.”
Much like Coach White, Bianchi was extremely pleased with the cheerleading team’s immense growth. “I am really proud at how far the cheer team has come in just the two years I have been here. The school has increased its support of the team and has started to include us in many activities that we were never a part of before.”