Elon's cheerleading program changes
Kelsey Mathews / Reporter
The high level of commitment and lack of tangible rewards
for both the co-ed and small co-ed cheerleaders at Elon is
causing a decrease in retention rates. Other factors, one
being the intensity of Greek Life involvement, also
Training for cheerleading looks similar to training for
other collegiate teams. During basketball season the team
participates in practices twice per week, weights twice a
week and generally games twice a week. Only one day is left
to give their vocal chords a rest.
Despite the time they commit to a sport that is not only
physically rigorous but has the potential to be the blood of
Elon sporting events, cheer squads are not recognized by the
NCAA. The school itself has yet to do much to support them,
either. Limited book scholarships are the only available
financial reimbursement for the athletes. They do not travel
with the teams due to lack of funds.
Coach Sandra Bays can see how this would be a problem for
some. She said, "They ask, why am I doing this for
Former all-female (currently small co-ed), cheerleader
Kristin Smith asked herself that same question last spring.
After debating whether to stay on the team, she decided it
was too much of a time commitment.
"It was hard, putting that much time into something and
not get anything out of it," Smith said.
"I had to come to the conclusion that cheering
won't get me any closer to where I want to be in the
Smith cheered for two years at Elon before deciding to quit.
She misses the team, but decided the benefits outweigh the
negatives. She now gets to actively participate in her
Seventeen freshmen joined the team this fall. The coach and
athletes alike wonder how many freshmen will return next
fall, and in the following years. Only time will tell, but
with the majority of those athletes being women, Greek life
may draw some away. Of 2,627 female undergraduate students,
1,177 are Greek.
This is a trend that the coach has noticed as a large
contributor to a low retention rate. In her five years of
coaching, she has continually seen this happen.
"Once people pledge and go Greek, they get burnt
out," said Bays
As a former Elon cheerleader for four years, as well as a
Sigma Sigma Sigma alumna, the coach understands. However, she
is confident in the squad she is raising up now.
"We have a great team. They bring a lot of excitement
and diversity. This year is a growing year for us," she
As a part of mixing up the squads in hopes of higher
retention, Bays changed the all-female squad to a small co-ed
team in early September.
Small co-ed captain, Erin Follett, said that both the co-ed
and small co-ed squads are one team, training together and
doing pre-season as a joint unit. She dismisses questions of
a varsity/junior varsity differential.
"I realize it may look confusing from the stands, as we
have two separate teams with different uniforms and stunting
techniques. However, we work equally as hard as the other
team (co-ed) and we deserve everything that comes with being
called a varsity athlete," Follett said.
The coach hopes this new set-up will encourage retention and
says it may potentially build up their recognition on campus
For four-year member Follett, the all-female style cheering
and stunting is all she's ever known.
"I liked being different from the co-ed team."
Follett said. "Now, I don't know what I would do
without them (the guys). They add a new dynamic and make the
environment more relaxed and fun."
She also wants this new dynamic to do more than create
interest in the program, but keep athletes committed.
Contact Kelsey Mathews at firstname.lastname@example.org or