Changes need to be made to the WIU cheer team

Allison Young, Opinions Editor

Western Illinois University has several different sports teams that students can be a part of. Most of these sports have the ability to give out scholarships; whether it’s for books, tuition or gear, most students that are recruited for a sport receive some sort of payment in return. As a Western cheerleader for the last two years, I have noticed that there has not been much money provided to the cheer program. Because there are some obvious differences seen throughout each sports program, I am starting to get frustrated with the treatment of the cheerleading program.

I tried out for the Western Illinois cheerleading team in April of 2017. After the tryouts, there were 25 men and women on the team. There were a few who could not continue after the semester ended because they did not meet the GPA requirements. However, we had a second tryout to fill those spots and still ended up having 25 people total. At this time, we got the experience of going to camp as a team to learn how to better ourselves for game-day. Having a team that large was absolutely amazing because we had so many different stunts and pyramids. Now, a year later, we started the year off with 19 men and women combined. Although this does not seem like a big drop in numbers, it did do a little damage when it came to options for stunts and such.

If you were to take a look at the cheerleading team at a basketball game now, you would notice that there are about nine of us left. Although some have been dropped due to failure to receive proper grades, community service requirements or study hours, there still should not be 10 people missing from where we began. Several people have felt that cheerleaders do not get the respect or recognition they deserve. As a cheerleader, you are expected to go to every home football game, every home men/women’s basketball game and practice twice a week. This can become a huge commitment considering I receive no money towards anything as a cheerleader. It saddens me to see the program go so downhill because cheer used to be a passion of mine, but it has almost become an inconvenience.

Now, I am not asking for the University or Athletics to pay for everything like other athletes receive because I know that is not a feasible request. I think that getting some sort of payment towards equipment that is required would be the most beneficial in my eyes. The only other payment that might be helpful would be support when it comes to buying books. I understand that funding in several places is always tight, I just do not find it fair that other sports teams get so many things for free, when the cheerleading team receives close to nothing.

I would love to see these changes implemented soon, but I know that it will be hard because there are already budgets set. I just do not know how much longer members of the cheer team are going to want to pay out of pocket for so many things. I saw the decrease in numbers in the program happen within less than a year, and I cannot imagine that they will grow anytime soon if there are not any changes made soon.