Clemson football will be making their way to Miami to play in the December 31st Orange Bowl. You know who else is going? The Clemson Cheer squads!
Clemson Cheer consists of an all-girl team, a coed squad and the Rally Cats Dance Team. A huge enterprise under the management of Tori Palmer. Palmer has been the Spirit Program Coordinator at Clemson University for the last three years and says, “Preparation and consistent communication with her squads,” are what make these trips successful. In her career, Palmer has taken teams to five bowl games. She spent two years at the University of Arizona prior to taking on the responsibilities at Clemson. Palmer said her first bowl game was tough, and she would encourage coaches experiencing this for the first time to reach out to the previous bowl game coach and ask a lot of questions! You have to remember that being the cheer coach during bowl time means dealing with multiple personalities and holiday celebrations. It can be a logistical nightmare but detailed preparation is how cheer coaches like Tori Palmer master the transport of their squads to and from post-season games effectively. Cheerleaders are expected to arrive everywhere with cheerful attitudes, ready to appear put-together on a moment’s notice and have all their gear.
Cheer squads don’t have equipment managers so they are responsible for all their uniforms and cheer gear. The Clemson squads, like many, have multiple sets of uniforms with different appointments that go along with each. The bows, the socks, the shoes, the lip stain, the sparkles, the megaphones, the poms and of course the uniform itself. All these items are expected to be in meticulous condition at all times and as Palmer of Clemson reiterates, “Each cheer team member is responsible for all their own gear and they do a great job of always looking great.” Clemson cheer squads have three sets of uniforms and rotate them accordingly depending on what the football team is wearing. Palmer keeps in contact with the football equipment people to know which uniforms to wear for each game. This is not an easy task because each uniform must be cleaned at all times just in case an appearance pops up – when they are needed or requested, Clemson cheer members are always ready.
The first item on Palmers agenda is the Orange Bowl Game Manual. It is filled with all the information for arrivals, required appearances, stadium information, media, etc. There is so much information that overload begins right away. After reading through the complete manual it’s all hands on deck. Palmer says, “Planning the full itinerary, sending bids for transportation, food and places to stay is a lot of work.” It’s important to make this trip smooth for everyone. Some will travel from the Clemson campus in Clemson, South Carolina others will get picked up along the route to Miami. “I try really hard to make sure that everyone has time with their families over the holidays,” says Palmer, “this is the first time for some of them to travel and I want it to be a great experience.” Palmer goes on to explain what an amazing opportunity this is and managing it with families and members of the cheer squads you have to be very organized and incredibly patient. Which brings up the questions of who gets to travel and who gets left behind.
Not every cheerleader is fortunate enough to attend. “We have a lot of cheerleaders but are limited to how many we can take to the Orange Bowl. We have to determine the eligibility of each member for each squad.” Palmer isn’t sure how many she can take this year because the manual hadn’t arrived by this interview. Palmer explains, “Attitude, seniority, volunteer efforts, skill level and of course academics” are the main factors in choosing the bowl game travel group. “I don’t like having to leave anyone behind but choices have to be made and they are tough decisions.”
Cheer teams across the country who are going to bowl games are in the same place; having to whittle down their numbers. It has more to do with space on the field and less about money. In actuality, colleges’ fortunate enough to have teams playing in bowl games will reap rewards into the millions. Bowl games are big business and collegiate cheer squads have requirements of expectations from bowl management just like everyone else in the athletic department of each university who will be attending the Orange Bowl. A spokesperson from the Orange Bowl said, “We take behavior at our bowl game very seriously but typically see more silly behavior coming from the crowds rather than the players, coaches or cheerleaders. It’s going to be a great game!”
Bowl game requirements include parades, personal appearances and standards of behavior. Palmer explains that, “It is a privilege to go to a bowl game and behavior is really important. They are representing our university, this a business trip to represent our school.” Requirements begin pretty quickly once Clemson arrives in Miami and Palmer goes on to say, “We’ll probably have just one day for practice before our first required appearance.” The Orange Bowl will be jam packed for the Clemson Cheer Squads but from what I hear they are ready for anything. Palmer is hoping they will have at least one day free for the squads to experience Miami on their own.
The job of a collegiate cheerleader is full-time and they are seen on and off the field as school representatives. Cheerleaders maintain strict workout ethics to endure the season so when the bowl games begin and you are watching from either your comfy couch or stadium seat give a shout out to the Cheerleaders, because they are shouting out to you! #BowlCheer