University of Richmond freshman Joseph Berselli joins presidents Ronald Reagan, Franklin Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower and George W. Bush in a common collegiate extracurricular: cheerleading.
Berselli is the first male cheerleader to hold a spot on the squad in more than a decade, head coach Ginny Ellis said.
Berselli said he had cheered for his high school, and with a competitive cheersquad. He sees being a Spider cheerleader as an opportunity to meet more people on campus, he said.
Adding a male to the otherwise female team prompted some adjustments for the other cheerleaders, Berselli said. "They had to figure out what to do with me because they haven't had a guy in a while," he said.
But figuring out which cheers and motions Berselli would execute was not so burdensome for Ellis, who is in her second season at Richmond, but who has been coaching cheerleading for 20 years, she said. With her experience, dealing with male cheerleaders comes second nature to her, she said.
During the summer, Ellis received an email from Berselli asking whether males were permitted to try out. "It was a pleasant surprise," she said. With Berselli's skill level, which includes strong tumbling and stunting abilities, Ellis thought he would be a great fit, she said.
Berselli said he expected to continue with the team for the remainder of his time at Richmond, and the reactions of his peers had been positive.
"I feel like some people might think of cheerleading as just doing the cheers on the sidelines," he said. "But the energy it takes to learn stunts and other tumbling skills requires a lot of time and effort."
As for the team dynamic, Ellis said it had been a little different with the male addition. "It's more real world," she said. "It takes it from being a girls' club to being more of a brother-sister interaction."
Berselli's presence on the team is likely to influence more males to get involved with Spider cheerleading, Ellis said. "Usually what I have seen in the past is when you get one boy, you get more," she said.
Senior Elizabeth Webber shares a similar prediction: "We're hoping in future years to have more guys come out so we can do more partner stunting and have more stunt potential."
Contact reporter Mara LugoRudner at email@example.com