After its victory in 1993, the team has been climbing its way back to the top spot
On Thursday, Aug. 24, up to 10,000 new Ohio State University students will file into Ohio Stadium for the Buckeye Kick-Off, a spirit event near the end of Welcome Week. Along with free food and interactive games, first-time Buckeyes will enjoy a dynamic performance by the OSU cheerleading team.
“We're doing basket [tosses] and tumbling and stunting,” said Natalie Hyde, a fourth-year cheerleader. “From there we can only grow because we're starting [the season] off on such a high note.”
In addition to cheering for the Ohio State football, basketball and volleyball teams, the squad will compete at the Universal Cheerleaders Association National Championship in January. OSU took first place in the 1A Large Coed division in 1981, 1983 and 1993.
“Recently, in the three years I've been the coach, we finished in the top eight,” said Head Coach Ben Schreiber. “So we're really working on climbing our way back up to the top and bringing the fourth national championship back to Columbus.”
What that will take is a comprehensive approach to daily improvement — getting better “in the classroom, in the weight room, how we do with our jobs as it relates to ‘game day,' and even in the community,” Schreiber said. “It's just going to raise the confidence with the team members, and it'll also help make the recruiting process a little bit easier to bring some of the top-level cheer athletes in the country to Ohio State.”
And, yes, college cheerleaders are athletes. “Most people think that cheering's just standing on the sidelines, shaking our poms, but it really does take a lot of athleticism,” said Journey Ramey, a fourth-year cheerleader and member of the leadership team. “We're working out two times [or] three times a week, lifting to get stronger [and] get our endurance up. We're always working on our physical aspect to make sure we're the best stunters, the best tumblers and in the best shape.”
“We're [also] ambassadors for this university,” Journey added, referring to the team's weekly “community events,” or service throughout the city.
“It's important to give back and then also to bring a piece of OSU to some of these different groups and organizations,” Schreiber said. The cheerleaders provide the excitement of “game day” to people who may not get a chance to visit OSU, he added.
Keeping the fans' energy up during football games is the primary role of the cheerleading team. “We want to make people want to come to our games rather than just watch [them] on TV,” Schreiber said.
The team achieves that by honoring time-worn Buckeye traditions, like dancing to Ohio's official rock song, “Hang on Sloopy,” first released by the McCoys in 1965. “If you watch [the routine], you see some very unique movements and unique dance moves that were created decades ago,” Schreiber said. “[And] while we've added some new [cheers] and updated some, we still have a good core that have been around for a very long time. So being able to maintain some of those things, while still bringing in some newer, more modern things … is one of those things that's special about OSU.”
According to Schreiber, new features in the team's performances — more collaboration with the band, a new mini-routine, choreography with bigger visuals, etc. — are necessary to get the crowd's attention in today's society.
“It seems like everyone's looking at their phone,” he said. “We're just trying to keep that ‘game day' environment alive.”
“I'm very excited to see what they're going to do this year,” Assistant Coach Siobhan St. John said of the team, which abides by a set of core values they call “The Standard”: chasing excellence, communication and hard work. And this year's motto is FAM, which stands for “find a means.”
“That's what all of these student athletes in our program do,” St. John said. “They find a way to make things happen.”