Grambling State University cheerleaders are a big deal. The squad is No. 4 in the nation, they won a recent Spirit Award and they won a “gold bid” that helps pay travel expenses to a national competition.
The squad trained extra hard to compete in memory of a colleague, Robert Miller, who died in a car accident on June 28, in Minden. Miller contributed positive energy and lots of laughter his two years as a Grambling State University cheerleader.
“He really put our team together and made us stronger,” said Brianna Polley, one of the squad captains and a double major in mass communication and history.
“Coming back from that devastating news and winning a gold bid was just the icing on the cake for a great year, a year we’ve dedicated to our fallen teammate.”
The team competed this summer during the National Cheerleading Association in August in Oklahoma City. The cheerleaders returned with four awards, including the Spirit Award, which is voted upon every team at camp.
“This award shows the true essence of an efficient cheerleader, and we’ve won this award every time we go to camp, and that’s been since the 90s,” said Terry Lilly, the team’s head coach.
The team won first place in the game day routine and the Gold Bid, meaning the squad gets financial support to participate in the National Cheerleading Championship in April in Daytona Beach, Fla.
The bid pays for hotel costs and half of the travel expenses to nationals, saving the squad and the university about $8,000.
One team member, Shayna Wilcots, won All-American recognition, one of the highest awards in cheerleading. Wilcots, 22, kinesiology major and senior, from Shreveport, is one of the team captains.
Miller was Wilcots’ stunt partner.
The squad prepared for camp partly with extra tough training during what they call “hell week.” The team practices three times a day, learning new cheers, game- day routines, practicing pyramids and fine-tuning routines. Hell week is held two weeks before school starts
“It’s a wonderful opportunity for people to bond, for them to get physically fit and prepared, and to give the freshman the opportunity to view the campus early and get acquainted with all of the buildings,” said Lilly, who is a Grambling State University alumnus.
During Lilly’s college years he cheered for the GSU cheerleaders. “So beyond getting physically fit they get mentally fit which prepares them for the whole year,” he said.
The Grambling State University cheerleaders are seen at the football and basketball games and pep rallies, pumping up crowds, dancing to the band’s beats and doing stunts and flips.
Their overall goal is to keep the Grambling spirit alive and to remain team oriented. The cheerleaders focus on pumping up the student body and leading the campus in school spirit, but Lilly says winning awards and being nationally ranked helps recruit students to the university.
“Cheerleading is a year-around sport,” said Polley, 20, of Houston.
“Once we do football, we go straight to basketball, during basketball season we are shuffling ourselves for nationals. It’s a lot of cheerleaders but we have to divide those up to give people that’s doing nationals a break, and make sure our schooling is right, after nationals its try-out’s and everyone has to re-tryout.”