Update: On Dec. 6, this article was edited to more accurately reflect the cheerleading certification status of the second coach. We apologize for any confusion.
Drake relies on the cheer team to put on a positive face for the school. We are expected to be at every football and basketball game, to attend events and to present ourselves in the Drake-approved image. For example, cheerleaders are not allowed to dye their hair unnatural colors or have visible tattoos.
Drake holds immense pride for its basketball team, football team, pep band, other sports and other clubs. It gives so much pride for its extracurriculars in fact, that it seems to have none left for the only squad that’s supposed to emit pride to the University: cheerleading.
Now I know that might sound dramatic, but let me explain.
First, there’s the small things. Little bits here and there that don’t seem like much. Just slight annoyances that add up.
All Drake sports teams are given gear that represents the university and promotes their sport. This is usually given out within the first week of the team starting practices. Cheerleaders do not have most of the gear yet.
All Drake sports teams are rewarded an athletic scholarship that allows them to get their textbooks for free. Simply hand in a list of your textbooks and they are provided for you. Drake cheerleaders struggle to get their books in time for classes, and haven’t had them on time yet for the past three semesters.
The athletic gym is a gym in the Knapp Center that is specifically for athletes only. Other sports teams are allowed scheduled time there. Cheerleaders, however, are not allowed to use the athletic gym this year despite having mandatory workouts.
Scholarships. Drake sports tend to hand out bigger scholarships (besides the athletic textbook one) to its players to help pay for the school’s expensive tuition. Cheerleaders are not given scholarships, purely volunteering their time for a sport they love so much. That said, cheerleaders are told that even with classes and other extracurriculars (that will help them in their future and/or give them scholarships) to make cheer a top priority.
Pay. The wonderful Pep Band (and I mean that sincerely) doesn’t get scholarships either. But you know what they do get, along with other certain sport teams? Paid per game, along with free meals. What do the cheerleaders get? Granola bars and fruit if we’re lucky.
Early registration. Many sports team members are allowed to register early for classes. Guess what? Cheerleaders can’t.
And now for the necessities. The big things that prove Drake doesn’t give a crap about its cheerleaders.
This year, there were not enough uniforms for every member on the squad. Team members had to rotate who could be at games just so that everyone at the games could wear a uniform. Not to mention, the uniforms came in late so the first game was performed in a t-shirt and shorts. Oh, and the cheer shoes haven’t come in at all; returning cheerleaders use ones from previous years and we just had to hope that new members had cheer shoes from the past that still fit. If the Drake football team didn’t have their uniform and their shoes, we all know that all hell would have broken loose to make sure they were accommodated for.
Lastly, the mess that is the Drake Cheer coaching situation. In three months, the cheerleading program has had three different coaches. There was even a time period where the cheerleading program was run by the cheerleaders while the athletic staff tried to find a coach.
The first coach quit because her education was being moved elsewhere. A second coach was quickly hired and worked with the first coach on her final practice to make the transition smoother. The only problem was that this new coach was a Drake graduate of only 2 years ago. She had friends, past roommates and past teammates still on the team; but apparently this conflict of interest was not a problem to Drake. She coached the year before at a different school and is a certified coach, though, so it seemed hopeful. She knew the Drake cheer program already and was excited about the upcoming year.
Here is where things get confusing. The team was told that she quit because the time commitment was too much with her job. However, this coach recently reached out to me to let me know that she didn’t quit, but rather, was given an ultimatum and forced to resign. Once again, the team was misled by the athletic staff.
At this point, cheerleading was run by team-appointed captains, while monitored by an athletic staff member (at least they attempted to seem to care about our safety). This time, the cheer team was promised transparency during the second hunt for a new coach.
That transparency lasted a total of zero days, when it was suddenly announced that a cheer coach had been chosen and we had a mandatory meeting to meet her the night before our next practice. The lying was annoying, but the team was hopeful of this new coach who said she was a certified coach and coached competitively. She had never taught college cheer before, but she seemed excited to work with us and we were excited to work with her and teach her about college cheerleading.
Now since it’s mid semester, there were only two football games left, and the basketball season was just about to start. The coaching situation may have been a mess, but the team was well established at this point. Stunt groups had been made, stunt pyramids were created, chants and cheers learned with specific motions, etc. Because of this, the new coach promised to not change much, but did let us know that she would be making small changes and would be making the program her own next year. It seemed reasonable.
It was an empty promise. So many changes have been made that it would be too long and boring to list them all. This new certified coach also recently dropped a cheerleader while spotting her during tumbling. The cheerleader now has to go through physical therapy. The coach also is pretty unwilling to listen to the team’s advice and knowledge on college cheer, along with making inappropriate comments. From my perspective, there has definitely been some hostility between the current coach and the cheer team.
Many Drake cheerleaders and their parents have brought this up, and all of the other grievances about the current cheer program, with athletic staff and even went all the way up to President Marty Martin. The only thing that has changed is due to the amount of safety concerns raised, cheerleaders are not allowed to stunt or tumble at practices and games- which is a major crowd engagement- and it almost feels like punishment for speaking out.
We are supposed to have the ultimate pep for the school, and yet, the school has zero pep in its step for us.
Cassandra Schoene is a member of the Times-Delphic editorial staff, as well as a Drake cheerleader. Her opinions do not represent the views of The Times-Delphic as a whole. Any Drake student, faculty/staff member or community member is welcome to submit commentary articles, regardless of previous experience. Email the Times-Delphic editor-in-chief Emma Brustkern at email@example.com for more information.