For the first time at Montclair State University, the cheerleading program is attempting to create a co-ed team. The co-ed team will be separate from the all-girl team and is expecting to attend local competitions for the 2017-2018 competition season.
Members of the cheerleading team are excited for the expansion of the program. A co-ed team at Montclair State might increase the number of students that apply. Many students believe it will have a positive impact because it will open up doors for the future.
“I think having a co-ed team gives Montclair State a great opportunity to expand our cheerleading program and help Montclair State cheerleading become better known,” said Jess Perrone, a junior physical education and health major and all-girl captain.
Montclair State is late in the game for co-ed cheerleading. Many believe that the university’s cheerleading program has evolved immensely in recent years.
“I personally believe Montclair hasn’t had a co-ed team in the past because there have not been enough males who have shown interest,” said super-senior captain of the all-girl cheerleading team Kelly Mcguirl, a family science and child development education major.
Cheerleading, once considered a small hobby for girls, has gained massive popularity throughout the past decade. Teams travel the country to attend intense national competitions. Every year it seems to grow bigger and more competitive. This increase in popularity has motivated not only women, but also men to try out.
“In the past, it was not a widely respected sport,” said Jayne Shalkowski, Montclair State cheerleading coach. “Bigger, Division I schools, such as University of Louisville, have amazing co-ed teams, which have opened up doors for other schools to have co-ed also.”
University of Louisville, Texas Tech University and Oklahoma State University are all Division I schools that have very respected co-ed cheerleading programs. In April 2017, each team took the top three titles at the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) collegiate nationals in Daytona Beach, Florida. Many men and women look up to them. This has sparked an interest for many male cheerleaders to start co-ed cheerleading teams at their own schools.
Kevin Kleiner, a junior family science and human development major, is one of the men attempting to launch the co-ed team at Montclair State. He became interested in cheerleading from a young age.
“I believe Montclair should have a co-ed cheerleading team because there is such a high demand in males wanting to cheer and we should definitely accommodate those needs,” Kleiner said.
Cheerleading is often misunderstood by the public. Media represents cheerleading as a dominantly female sport with short skirts, and girls waving their “pom-poms.” However, the intensity and athletic demand of competitive cheerleading today has drawn many males in. Students around the Montclair State campus have varying opinions.
“I think many people underestimate cheerleading because they compare it to mainstream sports, like football and hockey,” said Pasquale Dimaiolo, a junior family and child studies major. “I personally think it’s a sport because from what I have seen, they do a lot of difficult skills.”
Stunts are thrown at bone chilling heights and difficult gymnastics skills are required for competitive cheerleading.
“I tried every other sport, but cheerleading was definitely the hardest,” Kleiner said. “I seek a challenge.”
Members of the cheerleading program are hoping for a large turnout for the co-ed tryouts. The amount of cheerleaders that try out will determine the future of Montclair State co-ed cheerleading.
“If we get a good amount of members interested, tryouts will be held in November 2017,” Shalkowski said.
Once the co-ed program grows, they are striving to compete at NCA collegiate nationals, just like the all-girl team. In the meantime, co-ed is just expected to compete at local competitions for the 2017-2018 season.
– Published in The Montclarion on Oct. 19, 2017