NSU cheer coach seeks to make halftime exciting
TAHLEQUAH, Okla.— Cherokee citizen Paula Sloan spent ten years coaching cheerleading at a high school level. After taking two years off, this is her first year coaching the Northeastern State University Cheer Squad.
“I had been out of coaching high school for two years and the opportunity arose to get back in coaching just through college,” Sloan said. “The coaches that were doing this before me are good friends of mine and they decided not to do it anymore and they kind of recruited me to come into it and it was just an opportunity to get back into coaching so I jumped all over it.”
Sloan is currently an administrator at Tahlequah High School and was also a cheerleader up until the ninth grade in school.
There are 16 members on the NSU Cheer Squad. Five of the members are Cherokee, including Sydney Sloan, Paula’s daughter.
Sydney, a junior, was recruited from another university by the previous NSU cheer coaches. This is currently her second year cheering for NSU. She attended Vian High School and like other members of the Cheer Squad, receives a scholarship from NSU.
The other Cherokees are Shelby Blossom, freshman, Harlie Adams, freshman, Erica Jackson, senior and Brianna Payne, junior.
“At NSU I got involved by coming to college here and my friends talked me into trying out and I thought the team was really good so I thought it would be a good experience for college, to get involved and meet more people,” Payne said.
Payne started tumbling when she was in the third grade and participated in middle school cheer and high school cheer at Keys High School. In fifth grade she started competing in All Star Cheerleading competitions, which is a national cheerleading competition, until she started college.
Payne said her favorite thing to do during practices and game day is flying, which requires being tossed into the air by the other squad members.
Flying is only one of the many things that the Cheer Squad works on during practice. After warming up, the squad works on flexibility skills, tumbling skills, pyramids, stunts, side line cheers, the NSU flight song cheer and they even work with the NSU Pom Squad on a half time dance routine.
“We like to bring unity together for the whole spirit staff and to make an exciting half time routine for all of NSU to enjoy but during our practices we work on flexibilities, stunt skills, tumbling skills, review of material, just anything to do to make the girls look their best during game day,” Paula said.
Paula said one of the biggest problems she has when it comes to practicing is the scheduling.
“These athletes are so busy, most of them have jobs in conjunction with holding down at least 15 hours to be a full time student,” she said. “They also have to have about six to eight hours of practice time, that’s morning workouts, we do two mornings a week and that’s 6 a.m. so scheduling is definitely a problem but they’re very dedicated and I really appreciate the time that they give. Scheduling is probably the biggest hurdle that we face.”
Another thing that Paula faces at cheer practices and on game days are the injuries that can occur.
“We just have to make sure everyone knows his or her role and that you’re very serious while you’re doing it, that you have the flexibility, that you have the strength, which is why it’s important to work out, to have that strength, that flexibility and those skills so that you don’t get injured but you do deal with injury,” she said.
When it comes to trying out for the NSU Cheer Squad students are required to have a minimum of two years of cheer experience, must have a minimum 2.0 grade point average and must be able to show flexibility and tumbling skills.
“I’m looking just for that well-rounded cheerleader with the great attitude, that does have a set of skills, that can be a part of a squad,” Paula firstname.lastname@example.org • 918-453-5000, ext. 6139