Delaware cheer’s road to success
Associate Sports Editor
This winter, Delaware Cheerleading won its second straight national championship at the Universal Cheer Association’s open coed Division I gameday division. Led by Spirit Coordinator and Head Cheer Coach Ryan Blanford, the athletes from the coed cheer team and all girls cheer team were combined to perform in the competition. Blanford spoke about what the competition entailed and how the team was able to succeed.
“With gameday that’s a three-minute routine, and it’s made up of three components: situational sideline, timeout routine and the third element is our fight song,” Blanford said.
The situational sideline component involved how the cheer team might respond to a certain situation in a football or basketball game. The timeout routine is a part that is normally involved with the band. In the competition the Blue Hens used their, “Hens spell out” routine and “first down” routines. The third and final part of the competition involved the university’s famous fight song. Blanford thought the fight song component was where the Blue Hens stood out.
“We work on [the fight song] from day one all the way through,” Blanford said. “It’s always pretty cool to showcase [the fight song] because it’s unique to the University of Delaware.”
Building up to this moment is no easy task for Blanford and the athletes he coaches. Blanford has only held the position for about eight months. As head cheer coach, Blanford is tasked with recruiting both male and female athletes all over the country to come be a part of the cheer team at the university. From there he has to piece together a roster that he thinks will be able to emit Delaware spirit and compete at the highest level. Similar to other coaches in sports such as football and basketball, this is no easy task for Blanford. Among his athletes, Blanford looks for attitude, effort and athletic ability to help develop a culture of success in the program.
“We’re looking at juniors and seniors [in high school] throughout this past fall semester and we’ll continue to look at them through this spring semester,” Blanford said. “We’ll have about 52 roster spots between our coed and all girl team. We’re just trying to piece together a massive puzzle.”
For the athletes it is no easier. After being named to the roster the team meets throughout the course of the summer to build upon the basics and teach the university’s traditions. Once the preseason begins, the team meets daily to prepare for both Gameday 101 as well as the home football games for that upcoming season. Once the season gets going the team meets three to four times a week to practice, along with two to three lifting sessions. Before every football game the team does a showcase, not only to prepare for the game the following day, but to prepare for the national championship. To Blanford, he sees the football games as true practice for the athletes.
“Every football game is like a build up to our national competition,” Blanford said.
Once the semester ends, the preparation intensifies for the team. Over the course of this winter from mid-December to the competition in mid-January the team had a total of 50 practices in 30 days. To compete for a national title, Blanford sees this as necessary and it helps keep the true goal of the team in mind.
“It’s an intense period of time, but we have one goal and that is to go represent the University of Delaware down at nationals,” Blanford said. “It’s a lot of work.”
To compete at a national level in any sport it takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Blanford and his team’s hard work and dedication has shown both now and in the past. Including this year, the cheer team has won five national championships. Along with that, the dance team has won six titles and the mascot team currently holds the most with eight. For a program that does not get the most headlines on campus, it is clear that both Blanford and his athletes put in a great amount of work to get where they want to be: to be crowned national champions.