Oklahoma Christian University recently reinstated their cheer program, appointing Susan Jones as Head Coach.
Shelby Remling, co-captains on the team, grew up participating in cheer.
“I came to OC and they didn’t have a cheer program; that was kind of sad to me,” Remling said. “Then I talked with Susan and she said ‘Yeah, I want to start the cheer program back.’”
Remling was nervous at first despite her love for the sport.
“I was hesitant at first just because I wasn’t too sure about starting a thing,” Remling said. “I talked with her a lot about it and she took me through how it was going to be.”
Soon the program was a reality.
“Before any cheerleaders were even in the picture, she (Jones) was really trying to fight for it,” Remling said. “Even when there was just five or six of us on the team, she was still very much trying to prove, you know, we’re here.”
It was given the green light in February 2019.
“Since it was February, we did not have the ability to get the word out because typically you have cheer tryouts in spring,” Jones said. “That gave me just a couple of months. … So, I just got flyers out, we had a tryout and I have seven members on the very first team two years ago.”
With time, their roster grew.
“This last year I had 13 on my squad,” Jones said. “The longer we are around, the more people find out about it and want to be a part of it.”
The statement has held true thus far.
“I was super excited to have 13 because that meant I could build more stunts and pyramids,” Jones said. “And this year, I actually have 18 incoming freshmen that will be trying out for my team, along with possibly 10 to 15 students that are already at OC.”
A lack of athletes no longer impedes them from pursuing competitions.
“We could compete with the 13 we have, if we had the skill level.” Jones said.
Two factors contribute to this issue. The first is a faulty perspective of people looking to join.
“A lot of times girls think ‘Oh, that sounds like that’d be really fun, I have a lot of spirit.’ And they don’t know the first thing about what a cheer jump looks like,” Jones said. “You can’t go to college and try out for a team without any knowledge of the skills necessary to do that, whether it’s basketball, soccer, cheer.”
It is a work in progress.
“I wouldn’t necessarily change anything. Just being a new program, it’s kind of working on itself,” Remling said. “This second year has gone way smoother than last year and I think next year will be smoother than this year and so forth.”
The other factor impeding the team from improving is COVID-19.
“We can’t be close enough to stunt and she (Jones) can’t be close enough to spot us,” Remling said. “It’s made it very difficult in that aspect.”
COVID-19 has impacted the program’s performances too.
“The conference will not allow us on the basketball court at all,” Jones said. “Not even at halftime.”
Still, some practice is better than none at all.
“They’re usually late in the evening,” Jones said. “I send out a monthly calendar and highlight all the (games) that we’ll attend.”
“(They’re) about once a week right now,” Remling said. “Then we meet separately in our small groups to do our own thing and go over chants and band dances.”
Within the regularly scheduled practices, they have a routine.
“We always stretch first and then we start off with jumps,” Remling said. “Then we would do tumbling (flips), pre COVID-19. After that, we would go through our chants and band dances.”
Tumbling is Remling’s favorite part of practice.
“Last year I was kind of the tumbler of the cheer team just because I did it a lot more than anybody else,” Remling said. “But I guess that’s why it was my favorite part.”
Not competing herself, Jones’s favorite part is getting to know her team.
“I love working with the kids and watching them perform and work hard and be confident in their abilities,” Jones said.
The program would love to grow.
“It is a lot of fun,” Remling said. “It makes you closer with people that aren’t necessarily in your circle of people … and our cheer coach is awesome.”
Because of COVID-19, tryouts will look a little different this year.
“We’re going to have a virtual tryout and that’s going to consist of cheer jumps, fight song, chant and any gymnastic skills to be performed,” Jones said. “I will also have someone try out for Ike, my mascot.”
Jones encourages any that are interested to reach out to her.
“My office is in the Student Success Center,” Jones said. “On the second floor of the library behind the Ethos office.”