This weekend, Kentucky Cheer selected its 2020-21 squad via recorded tryout videos that were reviewed by coaching staff, the end of a long and grueling process for these dedicated young men and women.
How grueling you might ask?
Let’s just say it doesn’t happen overnight.
Jennifer Creech, a team member on the Blue Squad (the team that cheers men’s basketball, football, gymnastics, and competes for the national title every year) from 2015-2017 under former Coach Jomo Thompson, provided KSR with more insight on just how complicated the tryout process is.
Here they are, #BBN! Please welcome the 2020-21 Cheerleading Squad! ?
Congratulations to our newest members and returners! Go Cats!! ??
— Kentucky Cheer (@KentuckyCheer) July 10, 2020
First, it doesn’t actually start on the tryout weekend. Creech started training with UK cheerleaders when she was 16, her sophomore year of high school. That year, she began attending UK cheerleading camps, which are essential to clinching an invite to the tryout. Yes, an invite. You certainly can’t just show up. Creech remembered 60-100 camp participants each year. There are less than 50 spots between the White and Blue Squads combined.
If you’re lucky enough to receive a tryout invitation, the real competition begins. Tryouts are a three-day process over a weekend in the spring. Each day candidates participated in four-hour sessions in front of coaches and other team members. At the end of day one, some participants are cut from the list of possible candidates, with the same happening on day two, until the team selections at the end of day three. Each day is a tryout to make it to the next day, with numbers quickly being whittled down. If that’s not intense, I don’t know what is.
On day two, potential members are interviewed by former team members and coaches, as well as displaying athletic ability. On day three, the final day of the tryout, tryouts were open to the public, in what I can only imagine is the also a test to see how these men and women will do under pressure. With the hopes of completing dangerous, complicated stunts and tumbling passes almost nightly in front of a 20,000+ strong crowd at Rupp Arena, they must have nerves of steel. Or just be straight up crazy. You decide.
Girls complete a sideline cheer, tumbling passes, standing tumbling, elite stunting sequences and the fight song. At the end of the day, Blue Squad is announced first, with White Squad following. And that’s that. Years of training coming down to having a name read off of a list.
If you are lucky enough to be recruited by UK (yes there is cheerleading recruitment; Creech was recruited by UK, Hawaii and Morehead), you have to be ready to perform with poise and power from day one.
Oh, and you have to tryout every year.
This year, things were noticeably different due to COVID-19 travel and group gathering restrictions. This season’s 45 members were chosen through a virtual tryout process, with new head coach Ryan O’Connor and a select group of judges choosing the team from video submissions. 13 of the 45 squad members attended high school in Kentucky. The full roster is available here.
Slow clap for them starting….now.