A behind the scenes look into Oregon State University’s cheerleading squad
Long before a trophy is proudly displayed there is a dream. Countless hours of training and mental preparation are devoted to earning the highest recognition possible. Oregon State University is lucky to be a powerhouse of PAC-12 Division I athletes that continuously perform at elite levels, bringing home medals, rings and titles that validate their hard work. For OSU cheerleaders, however, there is no tangible reward waiting at the end of a season.
Though cheer is not officially recognized as an OSU sport, stunt technician Eric Weiss and cheer captain Kylie Acoba both consider themselves athletes. Their coach Amber Bezates, who has been working with OSU cheerleaders for 17 seasons, agrees.
“Cheerleading in general is a super physically demanding activity,” Weiss said.
Every practice and game is an extended trust exercise for the cheerleaders. After being lifted to balance on the stuntman’s open palm, a female cheer athlete will often spring into the air for a display of dizzying acrobatics. In these moments, cheer athletes literally have their lives on the line. During the rise and descent, having complete faith in their partner becomes just as important
as their learned skills.
“A perfect game is no missed stunts,” Bezates said. “Our main goal is to keep the crowd entertained. If we can keep the crowd loud and supportive it has a positive effect.”
To ensure that every appearance is a success, OSU cheer athletes practice two to three times a week for 3.5 hours with coaches. On game days, cheer athletes are expected to be in game-mode for up to 8 hours. The whole team is constantly looking to improve and will often organize practices outside of scheduled time, using gyms in Albany or even
as far as Portland.
“We just want to better ourselves,” Acoba said. “It takes a lot of drive, but we all push each other, support each other.”
Tryouts for the cheer team welcome any interested student, however, males should have a base athleticism and females require prior cheer or gymnastic experience. The team’s isn’t reliant on the athlete identifier, though. Ultimately, cheerleaders strive to be engaging entertainers. In fact, Weiss’ charismatic personality lead him to leave a successful career as an OSU rower in order to pursue cheer instead. His contagious energy and passion awarded him a spot on the cheer team even without having previous experience.
The two-day walk-on process is held biannually, once in April and then again in the fall. Being a cheer athlete requires a commitment to self-improvement and strong intrinsic motivation. The final cuts will have shown a love for the sport and obvious
dedication to excellence.
“It’s rewarding to be with someone through their journey of getting better,” Acoba said.
The OSU cheer team kicks off their summer training with daily double practices in anticipation of the first football game. This rigorous training schedule continues until the start of school, which can amount up to over a month of 6 hours of practice per day. Throughout the season they focus on stunts and tumbling as well as choreographed routines and the OSU fight song. Both male and female members are sideline for every football, volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball games.
Like all athletes, OSU cheerleaders don’t just represent the school during appearances.
“They’re upheld to a high standard,” Bezates said. “They need to be polite, professional, classy representatives of the university- even on personal social media. This
group does it really well.”
These athletes continue to show up to practices and games, come rain or shine, fueled by personal ambition and school spirit.
“Just having a lot of school spirit will come with the ability to say the school letters with a lot of pride,” Weiss said. “I think as a team, if we all worked really hard and smiled the whole game, yelled our heart out,
that’s a job well done.”
For cheerleaders, effort is measured in raspy voices and sore cheeks from smiling. This sport requires its athletes to better themselves for the sole purpose of encouraging enthusiastic fan involvement that will create a supportive environment for their home team.
“My favorite part is creating something from nothing,” Bezates said.