Ray Floriani is an occasional contributor and the RTC correspondent for the MAAC and NEC conferences. He covers college basketball in the greater New York City area.
NEW YORK CITY – They are visible on the baseline. They certainly are noticed during timeouts with their dance routines and gymnastics-based daredevil moves known in the field as “stunts.” Cheerleaders are a part of the college basketball fabric. But how many people realize the behind-the-scenes aspects of cheerleading ?
About fifteen minutes prior to the Coaches vs. Cancer final at Madison Square Garden, North Carolina and Syracuse players are going through pre-game warm-ups. UNC cheer coach Curt Brossman is on the baseline taking a few minutes. He had his squad stretch for about 30 minutes and gave them final instructions. Cheerleading is anything but a haphazard venture.
Brossman cheered 5 years at North Carolina. He is in his fourth year at UNC as cheer coach. During high school Brossman played on the baseball and golf teams. He cheered on his high school co-ed squad during his senior year and essentially was hooked. “At North Carolina a lot of the guys try out with no prior cheer experience,” he said. “The women have a lot more experience in cheerleading when they come to UNC and try out.” Among 30 or so cheer candidates each year, there are fewer men. They probably have played a sport in high school or they simply want to be part of the Carolina program. The women have cheered from recreation, through middle school, high school and now are taking the next step. The tryouts, especially emphasizing stunting and dance with the women, last a few days and Brossman notes with a smile there are candidates who are simply overmatched and just will not make the grade. With the men, it is more of less seeing if they can handle their part of the stunt at the finish (usually) and have the necessary strength.
Brossman has made a smooth transition from the baseline to coaching. “I’ve been involved in and worked at a number of cheer camps the past few years,” he said. “It hasn’t been a tough adjustment (to coaching). I really like to teach the skills involved in cheerleading.”