Male cheerleading is not an oxymoron

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When you hear the names George W. Bush, Samuel L. Jackson and Dwight D. Eisenhower, the phrase “cheerleader” probably doesn’t pop into your mind.

But fact can be stranger than fiction. Bush cheered at Phillips Academy, Jackson at Morehouse College and Eisenhower at West Point.

Although it may come as a surprise, today’s stereotypical cheerleader-a bouncy, petite, attractive girl-is not how it has always been.

In 1898, Johnny Campbell, an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, stood in front of a group of fans and started a now famous Gophers cheer, “Rah, Rah, Rah! Sku-u-mar, Hoo-Rah! Hoo-Rah! Varsity! Varsity! Varsity, Minn-e-So-Tah!”

And thus started cheerleading. It actually began as a practice dominated by men until women took over, primarily during World War II.

But somehow now when we see male cheerleaders at Ute games they seem to stick out, and we wonder what causes them to become male cheerleaders.

“A girl I liked asked me to come and do it, so I did,” Ute cheerleader Taylor Davis said.

But over time, he learned that there was a lot more to it than impressing girls.

“I like the fact that I am able to hold a girl up by my hand,” Davis said. “I can do stunts with them. It’s fun to know that you can do it.”

The Utah cheerleading team has several male cheerleaders, who are primarily hold the female cheerleaders during stunts.

Morgan Earley, a Layton High graduate, has liked having guys on the Ute team, as opposed to her all-girl squad in high school.

“The guys mediate,” Earley said. “When there’s a bunch of girls in one room, we all tend to butt heads a little bit, but the guys jump in and keep things under control.”

While in high school, Earley spent a year recovering from a broken hand after being dropped on a stunt, something she says hasn’t happened while being held by a male cheerleader.

“I’ve never been dropped by a guy,” she said. “No one (on the Ute squad) has been dropped enough to get hurt, but we’ve all taken our bumps and bruises.”

According to Davis, dropping a cheerleader is something that is simply not tolerated among male cheerleaders.

“I don’t drop girls. They’ve come down but I’ve never let anybody hit the ground,” he said. “I get mad if somebody does drop a girl, but you don’t see it happen too often.”

Because of the nature of both girls and guys working together on the same team, some relationships do develop.

“We’ve got a couple on the squad that are getting married,” Davis said. “Yes, relationships do happen from cheer.”

“I met my boyfriend in try-outs,” Earley said. “We both made the squad together and cheered together, but we had different partners that we worked with.”

But it doesn’t always work out that well for male cheerleaders.

“Get girls? That would be nice,” Davis said. “You definitely don’t get the recognition of a football player?’oh, you’re a football player.'”

And if you ever thought about becoming a male cheerleader to get up close and personal with the female cheerleaders, you may want to reconsider.

“Those ones don’t last very long,” Earley said. “Either they’ll start that way and then they become addicted (to cheerleading), or learn that we won’t deal with it.”

“We’re at that level where guys respect us. I’ve never felt uncomfortable,” she said. “If someone is falling the wrong way, they catch where they can, but we trust them.”

When it comes to scholarships, neither male nor female cheerleaders receive much.

“I receive a small scholarship for cheerleading, a whole $200,” sophomore Paige Williams said. “The more seniority you have, the more money you’re promised?The captains, who receive the most money, are only granted about $1,000 a semester.”

Although the issue of whether or not cheerleading is a sport is still up in the air-even among cheerleaders-they practice and work at perfecting their techniques at a level most athletes do.

“We have official practices twice a week,” Davis said. “But some people practice stunting on their own time five times a week or more.”

You may have also noticed that when Utah squares off against BYU in football and basketball, the male cheerleaders from each school have a contest to see how long they can hold up their cheerleaders.

“It’s called a Cupie contest, the one arm contest,” Davis said. “It’s just a fun thing, none of us just sit there and try to hold it forever. We work on new stunts that add on to the Cupie.”

Recently, BYU has held the edge over Ute cheerleaders, but Davis isn’t bothered by it.

“It’s the same guy every time,” he said. “That’s his expertise. But if you did a contest on showing new stunts and originality, he probably wouldn’t win.”

And if you’ve wondered whether they take a lot of flak for being involved in something that is considered a “girl” sport, it’s not like that either.

“I haven’t had anybody make fun of me about it,” Davis said. “More of it is respect and curiosity of how I got started and what I do. Everyone I know that has tried it has loved it.”

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