The BCS Bowl series are here, and Cheer Channel went behind the scenes to learn a little bit about the Spirit Programs that are behind these accomplished football teams. Rickey Hill, the cheerleading and dance coach, shares the ins and outs of the Virginia Tech Spirit Programs. He has dedicated over 22 years of experience to lead this program through a successful and active year.
Cheer Channel, Inc (CCI): Tell us about your spirit program.
VT’s Rickey Hill: At Virginia Tech our primary purpose is to support Intercollegiate Athletics and serve as ambassadors by appearing at university functions and community events.
Cheerleading at Virginia Tech is a challenging and rewarding sport. Each individual works hard to [master] new and difficult skills while the coaches actively promote safety. Virginia Tech is known for its clean, creative and innovative style, which highlights each individual’s talents in every team performance. The Cheerleading squad consists of 25 females and 28 males (Co-ed Varsity and Co-ed Junior Varsity).
The HighTechs dance team consists of a group of young women who enjoy dancing, generating school spirit, and entertaining fans at Virginia Tech Intercollegiate Athletic events. The audience is treated to unique choreography that includes fast transitions, leaps, and turns. Their incredible timeout and half-time performances demonstrate a variety of styles, including jazz, pom, and funk. The HighTechs consist of 16 Varsity members and 10 Junior Varsity members.
CCI: When are tryouts and how does the process work?
Rickey: Cheerleading tryouts are held in mid-April and early August/September. Cheer Tryouts are based on skills evaluations done by the coaching staff. Individuals are evaluated in a stress free practice type environment for two days in all areas of cheerleading (stunts, tumbling, motion technique, crowd appeal, collegiate image, and game day appearance.) We also hold short interview sessions to get to know the candidates. Once all tumbling evaluations are done we have “open stunting”. We feel this allows the candidates the freedom to showcase stunting skills in a more relaxed and fun environment. On the 2nd and final day we hold interviews, teach a sideline chat, and short 24 count dance which allows our staff to observe crowd appeal and basic fundamental cheerleading skills. Final decisions are made and the new team is posted. Individuals making the team in April are required to attend NCA Summer Camp in early August.
HighTech tryouts are held in mid-April and early September. HighTech tryouts are conducted by the graduating HighTechs and the team is chosen by the coaching staff. However, unlike cheerleading, the dance team tryouts are more formal. Candidates learn a routine that consist of Jazz, Pom, and Hip Hop (8-8 counts). Candidates are also judged on leaps, turns, crowd appeal, collegiate image, and game day appearance. We also hold short interview sessions to get to know the candidates. Individuals making the team in April are required to attend NDA Camp in early August. Freshmen are eligible to make the Varsity team.
CCI: How often do the Spirit Squads attend sporting events?
Rickey: Because Virginia Tech cheerleading is one of the top programs in the nation, it is a major time commitment. In addition to cheering for football and men's and women's basketball games, the team performs at various functions, conducts clinics, participates in numerous community service projects, and consistently qualifies and competes in the NCA/NDA College Cheer and Dance National Championships each year.
The Virginia Tech HighTechs are among the most active and visible groups on campus - dancing on the sidelines at home football and basketball games, making public appearances at community events, and competing in the NCA/NDA College Cheer and Dance National Championships. The Varsity HighTechs dance for home football and men's basketball games while the Junior Varsity HighTechs dance at Women's basketball games and various soccer games. Both teams perform at numerous pep-rally’s and campus events throughout the year.
CCI: Is there any difference in how you prepare for this bowl game as opposed to regular season games?
Rickey: The only difference between our regular season football games and the bowl is the amount of pep rallies and appearances during our 3 day trip. We usually participate in a minimum of three appearances and two pep rallies the day before the actual bowl game.
CCI: Are there any memorable moments you recall throughout this football season or school traditions you would like to share?
Rickey: The most amazing Game Day experience in college football happens during Pre-Game at Virginia Tech. Imagine 67 cheerleaders and dancers on the football field 6 minutes before kickoff leading 65,000 fans with giant signs that say “LET’S GO HOK-IES”. Twenty seconds later you hear “Enter Sandman” by Metallica playing on the loud speaker while 65,000 fans (young and old) begin jumping up and down and screaming at the top of their lungs. The Spirit Squad runs to the tunnel, formed by the Corp Cadet Band (also know as the Highty Tighties), to gather the battle flags and usher the team out. Emotions are high and the crowd erupts with a huge roar as the VT, Hokie Bird, H-O-K-I-E-S flags rise and the team follows the Spirit Squad onto the field. It’s an experience that you can’t put into words. I’ve been coaching at Virginia Tech for 7 years and I still get chills from our Pre-Game.
Congratulations to Virginia Tech for making it to the Discover Orange Bowl on January 3, 2011, at 8:30 p.m. ET on ESPN. The Bowl took place in Miami, Florida.
Authored by: Jessica Segura
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