The UConn Cheerleading Team spends hours upon hours practicing and preparing to support Husky teams at their athletic contests.
Now, for the first time in over ten years, the cheerleaders are headed to a competition of their own.
They will be taking part at the Universal Cheerleaders Association nationals in Orlando from Jan. 17 to 19, 2020, in the Game Day Division.
“The Game Day competition is relatively new and tests what you do on a daily basis and how well you get a crowd to interact with you,” said Samantha Breault, the head coach of the team and the coordinator of spirit, pride, and traditions in the Office of Student Activities.
There will be approximately 100 squads competing in Game Day, broken down by Division I, II, and III and junior college. Teams are graded on performing their school’s fight song, a timeout section, and a cheer section.
“There is tumbling and stunting, but this is more focused on who represents their school traditions the best,” said Breault. “Our program is a good fit for this competition.”
Breault is in her fifth year overseeing the program and graduated from Syracuse in 2015, where she was a cheerleader herself for the Orange.
She has been taking the team to a preseason camp each August at Boston University, and the Huskies have performed well in the Game Day competitions there. She thought that this was the right time for the cheerleaders to get back to national competition, and the leadership of Student Affairs agreed.
“The team is so excited to go, and we surprised them with the announcement at the beginning of October,” said Breault. “It allows cheer to have goals of their own and something they can all work together on.”
There are 29 members of the team, and all will take part in the national competition. During the season, all 29 perform at football games while they work in 12-person rotations at men’s and women’s basketball games.
“We are working hard to prove ourselves and show the University that we can compete,” said Kylie Santos, a junior on the team from Vernon, Connecticut, who is a sociology major. “We are really very passionate about doing this. I love performing and working with my team to put on a great show for everybody.”
The team keeps a busy schedule with two early morning practices a week and an open gym session on Thursday nights. Home football and men’s and women’s basketball games make the fall and winter seasons a busy time. Cheerleaders are also expected to meet the team’s academic requirements, and they take part in various community service activities as their schedule allows.
“Competing for your school is an unforgettable experience that not everyone has the privilege to do,” says Raven Soumpholphakdy, a senior member of the team from New Britain, Connecticut, who is a communications major. “Being on a court with some of the most talented basketball players in the world is absolutely phenomenal. For us to compete in a style that represents what we do for the University suits us very nicely.”
Breault believes that cheerleading is a positive activity for both mind and body and hopes her team gets the same out of it that she did.
“Cheerleading gave me a lot more confidence than I ever had,” said Breault. “I was very shy before college and didn’t talk a lot. Cheerleading helped me with skills like what to say in a job interview and how to articulate myself better. It taught me about representing something more than myself. Cheerleaders and dance team members are very visible across campus, and it’s my hope for my kids that they learn how to represent that school and that, wherever you go, UConn is