Cheerleaders stand on the sidelines of the E. Claiborne Robins Stadium and face people who have no allegiance to the University of Richmond yet: high school football recruits.
"When a game environment isn't optimal, I think the cheerleaders are always quick to be blamed," Richmond cheerleading coach Erin Martin said.
Martin said the cheerleaders' position during games served as a challenge, and there were only so many ways they could get fans to cheer.
Senior captain Jayme Epstein said it was difficult to change the raw emotions during a game.
"We don't really know how to get people excited and on their feet when our team scores a touchdown," she said. "It should be a natural thing."
Courtney Amelung, another senior captain, said there was always room for improvements in Richmond cheerleading, but it was frustrating to have people staring at them and never cheering.
Martin used to cheer at Virginia Tech where she said she did not have to try as hard to get a crowd excited.
"At Richmond, we are still trying to establish traditions and develop consistencies to get the crowd involved," she said.
"People do not realize the number of spontaneous things we have to do during games," Epstein said. "There are various times where the athletic department will put demands on us to do something we have never done before.
"We also never know when, if or what the band is going to play," she said. "It makes it difficult to plan dances, cheers, stunts and traditions. Sometimes we don't even hear the fight song when we score."
Some football fans expressed a desire to have the cheerleaders split up so the cheers permeate the whole stadium, but it can be difficult to coordinate cheers from tens of yards apart.
There are also students with microphones who start cheers in the student section. These students do not come to practice, so they don't know the cheers and often compete rather than unify, Epstein said.
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Amelung said people did not realize the time commitment for cheering and thought that they just showed up on game days. On game days, cheerleaders are required to be at the stadium three hours ahead of time to talk with alumni, give campus tours and participate in the Spider Walk.
Sophomore Emily Hopkins said they were also required to make public relations appearances at clinics, tabling and restaurants downtown.
The squad has also been criticized for not stunting enough, but there are a lot of logistics that go in to stunting, Amelung said.
"We only stunt in between quarters when we know we will have time to complete a stunt," she said. "There are only certain times of the game when we are allowed to be in the air."
Hopkins said if they had a bigger budget, they could practice at a gymnasium to work on their tumbling and stunting for games.
"Given the circumstances that we are a small school, they do a great job of supporting us when they can," junior wide receiver Tre Gray said. He said the academics were great at the university but at the end of the day, sometimes people need a break and should come out to support Richmond football and cheerleading.
One of the perks of being a cheerleader, Epstein said, was receiving two tickets to every home game.
Amelung said, "Sometimes it would be nice to receive some appreciation and a thank you for what we do."
Martin said she told her squad to be respectable, classy and make sure to represent the university in a positive light. She said her goal was for the squad to start competing and they were doing better every year.
Epstein said she hoped to stay driven so they don't just do the easy things that are comfortable and, consequently, boring. She is the only senior to have been on the team for four years and said each year yielded a different population and talent. This year's team has been the most enthusiastic and selfless and has been trying to change the image of Richmond cheerleading, she said.
Contact staff reporter Amanda Sullivan at email@example.com
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