Horned Frog spirit. We’ve all got it. But at the games and across campus, spirit is led by the Cheerleaders a dedicated group of students that spend a lot of time perfecting techniques and maintaining the fitness required for the job.
The squad continues to gain popularity on campus and nationwide and has survived its share of controversy over the years.
The Cheerleading team made headlines in 2005 after then-head coach, Jeffrey Tucker was fired right before Homecoming Weekend. According to TCU Daily Skiffarticles at the time &- the coach came under attack after the administration received complaints about the safety of some of the stunts.
The Cheerleading captain at the time, Magean Thompson, told the Skiffthat safety had been a recurring issue that season but took full responsibility for choices the squad made on the field.
She told reporters at the time that then-associate athletics director, Scott Kull came down from the stands and “had a confrontation” with Tucker during a game.
She said Kull later told the Cheerleading captains that safety was not the issue behind the firing but rather insubordination.
Earlier this year the Cheerleaders were in the spotlight again after accusations surfaced that spirit coordinator Lindsay Shoulders was moving the squad in a direction that made some of the members uncomfortable.
Some of the cheerleaders who left the team at that time said too much emphasis was being placed on appearance and weigh-ins were being imposed.
Shoulders declined to comment at the time, but now says that while there is an emphasis on being healthy, there was never a specific standard set for members of any squad at the university.
“I want them to be healthy and maintain a healthy body image,” she said.
Kelli Ross, a senior history major who left the squad during the height of the controversy, said she thinks some members were cut because they weren’t thin enough and didn’t look a certain way in their uniforms despite their talent.
But several current members of the squad disagreed.
Senior Cheerleading captain Ellie Spencer, a strategic communications major, is one of two members on this year’s cheer squad who has participated for four years.
Spencer said she believes the concern has always been staying healthy and being fit, not on maintaining a specific weight.
Shoulders said a lot of people may not realize how physically demanding Cheerleading can be.
“Cheering at a game for four hours 8212; you have to maintain yourself the whole time,” she said. “So you have to be super-fit.”
Ross said she was on the squad before and after Shoulders became the head coach and while being healthy had always been important, appearance and weight became more of an issue after Shoulders began to oversee the squad.
“To be a student athlete, you have to be healthy and in good shape, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to have weigh-ins,” Ross said. “That’s a lot of pressure to put on a student first and an athlete second.”
Many of the squad members don’t choose to participate in the program all through college.
Shoulders said the physical demands of practicing and performing feats like stunting and tumbling are sometimes just too much.
“Sometimes in Cheerleading the skills that are required are hard to maintain,” Shoulders said.
She said the time commitment is demanding and daily practice and frequent events are a lot for busy students to handle.
“It’s not for everyone. It takes a very special person to put in all that time and work,” she said.
Shoulders said she plans on continuing to keep the Cheerleaders front-and-center at the games as well as in the community by increasing appearances and volunteer time for initiatives like the Superfrog Reading Program where Cheerleaders and Showgirls accompany the mascot to elementary schools.
“I would really like to continue to get the girls out in the community,” Shoulders said. “I want to make sure they are visible at all major events.”