OPINIONS

Letter to the Editor: In defense of Stanford Cheer

Dear Editor,

In response to Glenn Truitt’s Op-ed piece (“Cheer leaving,” Oct. 26), I say it is ludicrous to suggest Stanford cheerleaders should not be allowed on the field.

I feel insulted that I have to defend my team’s good name after an accident occurs. I will be the first to admit that what happened during the Washington game was an unfortunate mishap. However, in light of Mr. Truitt’s hyperbolic criticism and serious misinterpretations, I am impelled to respond to his accusations.

Let me first clear the air. The flier who fell on television did not injure herself, and the girls below her did everything to cradle her safely. They have all been properly trained to cradle stunts, and they actually did prevent the athlete’s head from hitting the ground. I do not wish to trivialize the issue of safety in cheerleading, but the flier in the video was not at risk. Mr. Truitt’s inflammatory rhetoric is unnecessary in this regard.

I also take offense to Mr. Truitt’s comments about the physicality and ability of my team. Contrary to Mr. Truitt’s belief, since Stanford Cheer became a staple of the sideline entertainment six years ago, we have consistently improved our technique and ability. We are dedicated and legitimate. The stunt that fell on Saturday was the only stunt that fell during that game. And although that happened to be the stunt that was televised, it should in no way reflect the talent of the team. All teams, even Oregon, Arizona and Washington State, have dropped stunts at games, and the fact that we did so while on television is unlucky, nothing more.

While it is true we go to an amazing school that prides itself in its students’ prowess both academically and athletically, we also pride ourselves on our unparalleled devotion to individuality, diversity and acceptance. That is why one would be hard pressed to find a student who is upset over the fact that Stanford does not have a “traditional” marching band. Instead, we have a band that is creative, goofy and unique. We love them for being unconventional. Mr. Truitt wrote that Stanford students want spirit groups that conform to those of all other Pac-12 schools, which simply is not Stanford’s style.

I admit that we are not the most talented of cheer teams in the Pac-12. There, I said it. However, we are indubitably the most multifarious and well-rounded. My teammates are diverse in terms of their race and body type, not to mention their religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and academic interests. I firmly believe that our team plays a role in ending the stigma against cheerleaders that they are all skinny and perfectly spray-tanned. And, in a larger sense, I assert that we are combating norms about beauty in general. Every one of my teammates is gorgeous and more importantly proud of the way he or she looks, and we should be promoting that ideology and not saying that anyone looks out of shape. By advocating tolerance and diversity, I would say that my team is a perfect representation of Stanford and deserves a place on the field.

Sam Storey ‘13
Stanford Cheer

  • http://www.facebook.com/glennt97 Glenn Truitt

    Sam,

    I appreciate you taking the time to respond with a little less hyperbole than other like-minded apologists.  I’m surprised and disappointed to see the character of some of the rebuttals, which range from cowardly to homophobic, and some just outright stupid.  So kudos to you for actually assembling a respectful response – but I’m afraid that you can’t have it both ways.  Either Stanford Cheer is a team of competitive cheerleaders or they’re some other kind of “spirit team” – much in the same way the “Dollies” are not a competitive collegiate dance team – but you cannot be both.  On one hand, the defenders of Stanford Cheer point to competitions attended and the improvement in standard skills – judging the team against the standard set by national organizations and other teams, but on the other, you point out the team’s “unparalleled devotion to individuality, diversity and acceptance” and ask that you not be judged by those standards.  Which is it?  You compare yourself to the Stanford Band, but you’ll note that the Band doesn’t compete in marching band competitions alongside other schools.  Again, which is it?  Are you a competition team?  Or are you something else?

    Further, your assertion that Stanford Cheer is the “the most multifarious and well-rounded” team in the Pac-12 is laughable.  How do you know that?  Are you claiming that a team with nationally competitive talent is made of simple and single-minded fools?   Or at a minimum, of people that aren’t as “good” or “well-rounded” as you are?  What about the teams at the service academies?  What about Notre Dame or BYU?  I’d stack up their team members against yours any day.  I doubt you’d even have the courage to write those teams and let them know just how much better at everything else except cheer that you believe you and your teammates to be.  To be honest, that attitude is even more egregious and disgusting than your team’s television performance, and it alone should be reason enough to keep you off the field.  Going to Stanford should never be an excuse for anything less than excellence – but the commitment to student prowess both academically and athletically, individuality, diversity and acceptance is no less genuine on the other campuses of the Pac-12 than it is on the Farm.  Going to Stanford doesn’t make you better than anyone else, in the Pac-12 or otherwise, and now is a great time to learn that, before you get out of school and have to work for someone who went to a *gasp* PUBLIC SCHOOL. 

    The hypocrisy of your arguments is echoed throughout the Stanford campus and highlights the growing divide between the school’s scholar-athletes and its just-plain-scholars.  You say I would be “hard pressed to find a student who is upset over the fact that Stanford does not have a “traditional” marching band” – but when I took on the Band in my own column, I received dozens of e-mails of support, and almost all of them came from current/former athletes, or their families.  Their e-mails used words like “embarrassed” and “ashamed” and none of it seemed born out of the bigotry or fascism you would appear to want to assign to this attitude – they just wanted something a little more conventional, like you might find in any other college football stadium.  I would argue that you would be hard pressed to find a student-athlete who enjoys Stanford’s Band at all.  I would similarly argue that none of them appear to be charging to the defense of a team that just doesn’t appear to give a damn while sharing sideline space with a team that obviously does.  

    The students at Stanford proudly tout their oft-won President’s Cup, evidencing an overall athletic excellence, but how many athletic championships would you expect to win if the other teams at Stanford embraced your paradigm of “advocating tolerance and diversity”?  I don’t see the football team celebrating athletes too small to play effectively, or in such poor shape that they can hardly complete the game.  Would that be a team you would be more proud of?  A better representation of Stanford?  That’s not the way athletic teams seek excellence, and with that approach to success, it’s no surprise you have failed to achieve it so profoundly.  

    Finally, you ought to be ashamed of yourself for extending my desire to see a cheerleading team with a higher level of fitness as some kind of Aryan bigotry – where I also want the team to be white, heterosexual, rich, Christian and attractive.  I cheered with teammates of all colors, sexual preferences, creeds, income levels and appearances – and enjoyed sharing the line with each of them – because they all worked hard and took pride in their performance.  You don’t have to be pretty, rich or “spray-tanned” to be good at cheer.  But you do need to be in good shape, and you do need to work at it.  How dare you claim that I’m a bigot, simply because I expect girls that get thrown in the air for their sport to be small, and the people who throw them to be strong?  If you want to cheer and you’re too big to fly, you’ve got two choices: you do the throwing, and if you’re not strong enough to throw, you stay on the ground.  When I started cheer, I was barely strong enough for the most basic stunts, and didn’t make the varsity team.  But I worked at it, and practiced, and finally earned a place on the line – which I fought every day to deserve.  What did you do to earn yours?  Simply show up at tryouts with a pulse?

    If you want to combat norms about beauty, pitch a tent in White Plaza and paint some signs.  If you want to promote self-satisfaction with appearance and body-types, hold a seminar and have everyone hug at the end of it.  If you want to advocate tolerance and diversity, join a student group, write a white paper, or start a campaign.  But there is a place at sporting events for the kind of student support you’re talking about; the kind where you simply show up in school colors and represent the student body, cheer loudly, and it doesn’t matter at all what anyone looks like: it’s called THE STANDS.  Here’s hoping that’s where you end up.

    GT

  • GTtellsitlikeitis!

    I agree with Mr. Truitt that cheerleaders on the sideline be every bit as solid as all other Stanford athletics. Dropping/early cradle of basic cheer stunt on NATIONAL television is unacceptable. At the collegiate level I believe that is equivalent to dropping a thighstand as a high school varsity cheerleader?
     
    In my 14 years experience of coaching gymnastics and comeptitive cheerleading from mini level 1, co-ed, and all girl at the WORLDS level, I look at collegiate institutions such as Stanford to have a solid program for my students to look up to and say, “I want to go to Stanford and cheer on their squad”.  

    It seems to me that the author believes collegiate cheerleading should be run like AYSO youth soccer where everybody gets to play and everybody gets a trophie…AND by no means do I see any Stanford program having that mentality!

  • AG

    This is a pretty cheap response to Truitt’s Op-Ed piece.  What’s with all the talk of the cheerleaders being “gorgeous” and “proud of the way [they] look” and “advocating tolerance and diversity”?  The original piece, as I read it, was about the team’s cheerleading abilities (or lack thereof) — and nothing else.  If anyone is reinforcing stereotypes, it’s the letter writer, by insinuating that Truitt’s criticism was based on looks.  And please don’t speak for the rest of us.  As a Stanford alumna, I wish we had a traditional marching band (because that actually requires hard work and practice).

  • Namkwah

    I have to agree that if Stanford isn’t committed to supporting the cheerleading squad 100%, then they shouldn’t be on the field.  With 8 years of military service under my belt, and having played a number of sports competitively, cheerleading for a Division I-A squad and placing Top 5 at UCA Nationals was the toughest thing I had ever done.  It required a level of commitment and dedication unlike anything I had ever been involved.  Fortunaly, the PAC-10 school I went to was very supportive.  We didn’t have scholarships, but had our own doctor, trainer, two coaches, access to the athletic weight room, and we practiced ALL the time.  

    Only being able to practice twice a week, not employing a full time coach, not even having cheer shoes supplied…shame on Stanford University.  I admire the Cheer Squad’s willingness to represent their school on the sidelines, but they really shouldn’t be on the field.  Dropping a cradle that came down from a basic Liberty with three people basing is unacceptable for a university as prestigious as Stanford.  Junior High School teams can perform that stunt successfully.  The cheer squad isn’t to be blamed, though.  It’s the university’s lack of support that’s at fault. 

    Kudos to LMcBee in her comment to Glenn in the original Op-Ed article.  She represented herself, Stanford and the student body with class and maturity.  Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Sam.       

  • dreamygirl31

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  • dreamygirl31

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