Ethan Pham, The Paisano

Last spring, UTSA cheerleaders were shocked to hear they would no longer be allowed to compete. In an official statement, UTSA Athletic Director Lynn Hickey explained the sudden program change, “In reviewing the growing needs of the athletics program, we believe the team’s top focus should be on providing an outstanding sideline cheer program for our teams and its fans.” The team’s all-girl group holds a 2012 national title and placed in second for the last two years. The squad, however, is still eager to compete.

Despite the decision to ban competition, an attitude of positivity is still noticeable within the group. According to cheer Captain Kirsten Martinez, a returning member of the squad, new traditions are a big focus this year.

“Whenever we first found out that we weren’t going to competition, of course we were all upset, but the new girls came in with a positive attitude and we’re more excited to see the new traditions we’ll bring.”

In light of these changes, not all squad members returned this year. “We did lose a good amount of girls to different schools and a lot of them hung up the pom-poms to focus on school because they were going to be seniors anyway,” Martinez explained.

UTSA cheer calls on the crowd to get rowdy on the sidelines of the football season’s opening game.

UTSA cheer calls on the crowd to get rowdy on the sidelines of the football season’s opening game.

The Squad’s Assistant Coach Bianca Nuckols described this as “definitely a building year” but sees the change as an opportunity, not a weakness. “Being that we have a lot of rookies, the team is going to mend the way we want it to mend. We can make the team whatever we would like it to be, which, I think, is one of the best things about it.”Martinez remains hopeful in the possibility of competing in the future. “[Competing] is still a goal to push toward. If we get everyone involved, if we improve the games and make them more fun, we know that it could happen,” she said.

In an interview for the Paisano story, Hickey made it clear what UTSA Athletics was looking for from the squad this year. “We need to have first, a really strong what they call ‘sideline cheer’ group,” she explained.

According to Martinez, in order to meet these needs, the team is working on getting fans more involved on game day.

“We’re coming up with new cheers, we’re incorporating our signs. We’re trying to get out there and communicate with the fans. If the fans are loud, then the team is going to get pumped up and everyone is going to have a good time.” In regards to how long it could take for the team to return to competing, she explained, “It’s not our decision, but, hopefully, we only have to take a year off, and then we can get back to what we’re used to: game day and competition. We’re crossing fingers.”

These sentiments are echoed by Nuckols’ confident response when asked if the competition aspect of the squad would ever return. “I think it will. I’m positive it will. How long it will take won’t be apparent to us; that’s solely up to Athletics, but I believe that with positive guiding and positive leading, it will be back in no time.

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