The Student News Site of Brookdale Community College

The Current

The Student News Site of Brookdale Community College

The Current

The Student News Site of Brookdale Community College

The Current

Cheering On Friendships And More

How Did I Not Know That? Series

At the Involvement Fair I saw a demonstration by Brookdale’s cheerleading team. Sadly, I knew little about the sport or about these amazing athletes who support our teams and entertain audiences at the games. I’m guessing that if I didn’t know about them, maybe other students didn’t and so the next installment of “How did I not know that?” was born.

So, I went to a cheerleading rehearsal in the Collins Arena, spoke with the coach and a few of the athletes, and whatever assumptions I once had about cheerleading were put to rest.

The first thing I noticed is that this team is co-ed.
Then, you hear all of the laughter. These students laugh non-stop throughout practice sessions. It was more like attending a party than a practice as the students attempted challenging and, to my eyes, dangerous moves. They laugh when they succeed, and they laugh when they fail (and fall!). When I wasn’t fearfully gasping watching the human pyramids they were building, I found myself laughing too.

This upbeat “we can do anything” atmosphere is due to the competence, experience and skill level of athletic coach Katrina Thornton.

“I started cheering when I was 5 years old with Pop Warner,” Thornton said. “I cheered at Brookdale as a student and continued throughout college. I became a junior coach at 16. Then my sister and I went pro and cheered for the New Jersey Nets for four years. I started judging competitions and continued to coach, and eventually made my way to Brookdale. I’ve been here for about 10 years.”

I was surprised to learn that everyone is welcome to join the cheer team, dispelling any myths that cheering was exclusive and/or not a welcoming sport.

Cheerleader Sierra Moleen, 18, from Manalapan said the club is a great way to make friends. “I didn’t know anyone when I started. I’m kind of shy and was afraid it was going to be different from the All-Star cheering I did in high school. But everyone was so welcoming and friendly, and it’s been an amazing experience.”

The team meets three times a week in the Collins Arena. For those who want to go for the competitive team, an offshoot of the main team, there are tryouts and practices on alternate days at the discretion of the coach.

Thornton stresses that having fun is the main goal of the team. “I never put pressure on the students. I tell my team, go out and do your best. Have fun. If we win a trophy, great, but that’s not our only goal. Working together, supporting each other and having a good time doing it is what it’s about. If we win – great. If not, we’ll try again next year.”

The practice I attended began with athletes running four laps around the track and then running up and down a set of stairs in the arena. Then the students made their way onto large, padded mats on the center of the floor and began to form human pyramids with two students acting as the “base” and a third student as a backspot. The fourth student, the “flyer” skillfully jumps up on the arms and then hands of the three base athletes that are forming the pyramid, eventually standing upright on the overhead outstretched hands of the stunt base.
It was thrilling and terrifying to watch, but the sheer joy on these students’ faces when the move was successful, is indescribable.

Cali Schoefer, 19, a nursing major from Brick and one of the captains of the team described her cheer experience. “I cheered all through high school and was also on an All-Star team, competing around the country. I am looking forward to being a part of Brookdale’s competitive team where we will be competing against other teams in different states, with a big competition taking place in Daytona, Florida.”

Schoefer also said the friendship aspect of joining the team made a major difference in her academic life. “I’m not from this county and didn’t know anybody. Suddenly, you see team members in your classes, and the connection is instantaneous. As a part of this team, you can be yourself, de-stress from classes and just laugh and have fun.”

Schoefer is a “flyer” and when asked if she was ever frightened by the prospect of standing high over the other students’ heads and then literally flying back down, she said in the beginning, she was.

“But in time, you build a really good connection with the three people who are underneath you, and you learn to trust them and stop having that fear.”

I asked both athletes what advice they would give to students who may want to try cheer but lack confidence. Both Schoefer and Moleen agreed that as long as you are willing to step outside your comfort zone a bit and are willing to learn and try something new, cheerleading is a great sport for everyone.

Thornton must be doing something right. When she took over the team there was an average of seven cheerleaders. Now the team averages about 40, depending on the time of the year. Clearly the students are learning amazing athletic skills while making friends, moving their bodies and gaining confidence.

Thornton did offer to teach me how to “fly”. However, I quickly declined. I’ll leave that to these talented athletes.

For more information about becoming a cheerleader:

Katrina Thornton, Athletic Coach
Athletics Department
Email: [email protected]
Phone: 732-224-2377

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