Most Valuable Cheerleader: Emily Christman

May 4, 2010

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Sponsored by the Ohio Association of Cheerleading Coaches
Photos by All Pro Images at Xavier University
Styling by Victoria Galvin at Tanya’s Image and Wellness Salon in Hyde Park Square

Age: 21
Squad: Xavier University
Class Year: Senior
Position: Base/Backspot
Major: Occupational therapy
High School: Sandusky St. Mary Central Catholic in Sandusky, Ohio
Job: Babysits 1-year-old twins and works part-time at American Eagle Outfitters
Career Plans: Pursuing a master’s degree in occupational therapy at Xavier

A True Enthusiast

By Lindsay Kottmann

Emily Christman was home for Thanksgiving break during her senior year at Xavier University when a friend pointedly told her that the University of Dayton’s basketball team would easily beat Xavier’s in their next match-up.

Christman was a little surprised at the surge of loyalty and protectiveness that rose up in her, causing her to defend the team vehemently. “I’m the only one who’s allowed to talk bad about Xavier!” she explains, smiling. “Which I would never,” she quickly adds.

That streak of pride was a long time coming. Christman, now well-known on her squad as a die-hard Xavier fan and recently voted “cheerleader of the year” by her teammates, actually started college intending not to cheer.

She was healthy and active, a former competitive cheerleader with a standing back tuck, but she didn’t fit the five-foot-two, 105-pound image that she assumed all Division 1 college cheerleaders were.

When she learned that Xavier’s squad had some all-girl stunt groups and a more casual program that emphasized cheering at games over competing, she decided to try out. Today, she says wouldn’t trade the years that followed for anything.

Cheerleading helped her make friends, and it took her around the country to NCAA basketball tournaments — from Boise, Idaho to Washington, D.C.; from Phoenix, Ariz. to Salt Lake City, Utah; and more. And at some point among all the last-second shots and annual 12-hour bus rides to conference tournaments in Atlantic City, N.J. (“We always got great stories out of those trips,” says Christman), the experience changed her.

Watching her talk easily and animatedly, chatting with dozens of students who pass her on campus, you’d never guess that she describes herself as a bit shy. Cheering, particularly in front of huge crowds, has made Christman less hesitant in social situations. “Cheerleading brought out my enthusiasm and happiness and carried it over to my life in general,” she says.

That’s a skill she’ll use frequently as she starts a master’s program in Occupational Therapy, which helps people live full and healthy lives and helps them cope with illness, injury or disability. Christman loves helping others, especially kids, and hopes to work with them throughout her career.

Sam Bodner, a junior cheerleader at Xavier, says that Christman helped her transition from a life of all-star cheering to cheering for basketball. “She was very encouraging to me and the rest of the squad,” Bodner says. And, Bodner says, Christman was an adept captain who was great at communicating between the coaches and the team.

Christman remembers the tension that arose on the squad when several cheerleaders lost their academic eligibility in the middle of the year, causing the rest of the team to fill in and cheer extra games. Some complained about the inconvenience, but Christman reminded them that it was a privilege to cheer for both the men’s and the women’s teams.

It’s bittersweet to move on from being a cheerleader, which Christman has been since kindergarten. But it’s fair to predict that, considering her enthusiasm for her alma mater and her friends, she’ll find herself arguing with Xavier naysayers far into the future.

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