University of Kentucky: Meet the Squad

January 11, 2011

University of Kentucky Cheerleaders talk UK tryouts, traditions and nationals

In a week, the University of Kentucky Cheerleaders will try for a 19th first place title at UCA College Nationals in Orlando, Fla.

We caught up with them before their performance at Premier Athletics’ UCA Nationals Showcase. They shared what it’s like to cheer for UK and gave advice to cheerleaders who dream of being on the squad.

Scroll past the videos for an edited transcript! (Can’t see it? Click here.)

Here’s UK’s nationals routine from last year:

edited transcript
Q. What is your schedule like as a UK Cheerleader?

Dan: It’s a full-time job.

Ashley: Yeah, that’s what I tell everyone.

Dan: We have practice Tuesdays and Thursdays at night, then we’ll have workouts Monday, Wednesday, Friday, then on the weekends we always have a football game on Saturday, then Sunday both squads will have practice, so there’s something to do everyday. Then, in between that there’s studying and going to class, and we have appearances to make. We make appearances all over town.

Mason: We just went to the Children’s hospital when we were in Birmingham, and we go to the VA hospital every year.

Ashley: We do a lot of elementary school performances. We like to promote academics and drug-free. We do a lot for red ribbon week. We help promote homecoming for the University during homecoming week, as well.

Q. Many kids grow up dreaming about being a Kentucky cheerleader. Did you?

Dan: Growing up in Kentucky, it’s a dream for every kid — once you find out about cheerleading, you find out that Kentucky is the best and it’s right around the corner, and you do everything that you can to get there. Jomo, our head coach, coaches a couple squads around the area so that really gets a lot more kids in the gym to see the hard work that we do and all the fun things that we do and they want to get to that level.

Ashley: I was on an all-star team and my coach was actually a Kentucky alum. I was on an all-star team, tried out my sixth grade year and since then all I’ve known is Kentucky cheerleading, so I feel like I did grow up with that dream.

Mason: I’m a Georgia boy, but being from Georgia I knew about Kentucky cheerleading. Trying to make the decision of what college to go to, I always had it in the back of my mind that it was somewhere I wanted to be. You always want to be the best, and Kentucky is the best at cheerleading.

Q. What advice do you give to those who want to cheer for UK?

Ashley: I’d say check it out. I would say, contact anyone who knows the program. Us, Facebook, contact Jomo — kind of go at it that way. Come visit the school, see if you like it. Our practices are open. Come to our clinics. Experience it before you really decide, and once you experience it you’ll really know where you can go from there, and where you are in comparison with other people.

Mason: Also, just put in the work. If you have a goal, you always have to push to reach that goal. It’s not going to come easy. You wanna be in a program like ours, sometimes you gotta take the steps to get there, and it’s not something that happens in a day or a year.

Q. Tell us about your school’s tradition of winning UCA National Championships.

Ashley: We got 18 under our belt and we’re going for number 19 next week, but we always try to say “beat the tradition not the competition.” We always try to make our alum proud, because they’re the ones who made Kentucky cheerleading what it is today, and that’s a big motivation for us during two-a-days and practices.

Dan: Yeah, we know that we wouldn’t be anywhere in 2011 if it wasn’t for everybody in the ’80s. They really took that first big step in the winning column, and we’re just trying to carry that tradition on and make them proud.

Mason: We also try to mention coming together as a team. All our banners that we hang up, they dont get hung up by one person. So we look back and remember special teams, and we always reach to be remembered in the future, as well.

Q. What’s it like cheering for other UK sports?

Ashley: Unbelieveable! Especially for Rupp. There’s really no words.

Mason: 24,00 people. It’s crazy! It’s awesome.

Ashley: I went to one of the games in high school, and you go as a fan and you think it’s incredible. But as soon as you go as a cheerleader, and you’re down on the floor in front of the people, it’s really unbelieveable. I wish I had a better word to describe it, honestly.

Dan: Yeah, growing up in Kentucky, my parents were diehard UK fans, so I always grew up watching the Cats, especially in the ’90s when they were on top of the game. And being able my first time to cheer at Rupp Arena was just jaw-dropping. It was mesmerizing — 24,000 people cheering for you, and also in the Commonwealth there’s 75,000 people all cheering for our University. It’s really fun just to be able to lead them and hear them behind us when we start a cheer and it goes all around the stadium.

Mason: It’s pretty amazing also, traveling with a school that has such a strong sports tradition. We have a really big crowd that follows us, whether it’s the Bowl game last week in Birmingham or New Orleans last year, you got a huge population of Kentucky Wildcat fans that just support and scream and yell no matter where you’re at in this country, and that’s awesome.

Dan: A lot of people really say that we have the best fan base in America, and that’s totally true. You see true blue fans all the way in New Orleans, Syracuse, wherever we go in the tournament. Even in Tennesse when the SEC tournament was in Nashville, there was more blue in the stands than there was orange. It was incredible.

Q. What else makes your program unique?

Ashley: I’d say the people. It’s really cool, because you come around a program that you’ve heard was successful, and you kind of have a stereotype of those people. Like one of our teammate’s friends actually came into town and said “I cannot believe how humble you guys are. I can’t believe how real you are, I can’t believe how friendly you are. It’s really amazing to me, I wasn’t expecting that at all.” And I think that’s a huge part of what makes us what we are. We are a close-knit family and we try to be kind and nice, and we’re just normal people!

Mason: I know personally for me, when I was deciding whether I wanted to transfer or not I made a few trips to kind of check out the team and was just blown away by how cool — it didn’t matter whether they were on white squad or blue squad, or had four national titles, it didn’t matter who it was, they all took the time to introduce themselves to me when I was a nobody and didn’t know anyone. It’s that home feeling and that family connection. Some of us come from 6, 7, 8 hours a way. Some of us come from California, Texas, and we all come together here and share that home feeling. Anytime somebody comes to the program, we try to make sure they can feel that as well.

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{ 1 comment }

Kendall Riley Thompson February 8, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Im thirteen and I cant wait till college to cheer. Im hoping to get a scholarship to MSU or UK. I have a full and standing tumbling and Im working on one handed single stunts with only two people. Im glad I got on this website because now I know I have everything that is needed to be on the Co-ed team.

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