March 10, 2010

10 Questions with Jeffrey Hollands

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Taking a break from interviewing athletes, Jasmine decided to speak with co-cheerleading captain Jeffrey Hollands ’12 this week. Their conversation jumped around from what it’s like to be the only male cheerleader to flying on the trapeze.

1. Do you believe that cheerleading is a sport?Yes. What we do is a sport. But cheerleading is such a broad activity so it’s hard to define, because what we do is — yes a sport — but like, the Laker Girls are also called cheerleaders. I don’t know if I’d exactly qualify that as a sport — I can’t give an answer. But what we do, I’d say yeah, it’s a sport.Why?Well defining a sport is tough. I actually was very much expecting this question. So I looked up how to define a sport and most definitions of “sport” include three things: physical exertion or skill, organized regulations and competition. And I don’t think many people would disagree that what we do at the basketball games does require physical ability. On the lines of organized regulations — we do have those. Most people do not know that we have them, but we are really regulated with what we can and cannot do at those games. Not by the school, in particular, but by organizations that regulate cheerleading. And in terms of competition — yeah, what we do at the games is not a competition — we’re not competing against anybody, but we do go to competitions and so we will compete and that’s where the competitiveness comes in to play. So what a lot of people see us do may not qualify as a sport, but what we know we do, is a sport.Very well-researched answer.I’ve had lots of practice answering that question; let me tell you.What about when you go cheer at other schools? I saw you cheer at the basketball game at Princeton and their cheerleaders were there. Does that get competitive, the two squads cheering against each other?Not outright competition, and it’s not spoken to the other team. And you’re kind of — you’re absolutely comparing yourself to them the entire time.Well I’d say you guys won that one. They had like three cheerleaders.Yeah, I don’t want to say ‘Yeah,’ but yeah, we did win. [laughter]. When their crowd cheers for us and not as loudly for [their cheerleaders], I think you can kind of guess that we won.

2. What’s it like to be the only guy on the team? You weren’t last year, right?Well, there were two other guys on the team last year, but they aren’t on the team anymore. Being the only guy on the team, it doesn’t really affect me so much because I grew up being the only guy on the team. I’ve been cheerleading for a while and most of the time, I’ve been the only guy on my team. So it’s just what I’m used to. I’d probably at this point find it weird if there were lots of guys on the team just because it’s not the situation that I’m used to. There’s a difference in the type of stunting when the team is half-guys, half-girls, versus all-girls, and I’ve just grown up doing the types of things that an all-girls type team does, and I just kind of fill in where they need me, where I fit in with the team. But I wouldn’t have all the skills that a team that has lots of guys on it would need because I haven’t learned them. I could learn them, but it’s a different type of team.A lot of colleges do have more guys on the team. Why doesn’t Cornell?Because we are not a varsity sport.Is that it?We aren’t allowed to recruit or give athletic scholarships, and those are things that entice the male cheerleaders to those schools.

3. How did you get involved in cheerleading to begin with?Well, I started tumbling first, after my sister did it, and I told my mom, ‘I want to do that.’ And she was like, ‘OK, we’ll sign him up for a month and then be done with it.’ But I stuck with the tumbling and then my tumbling coach started a cheerleading team, and she said, ‘You should be a cheerleader.’ This was when I was 11, so I didn’t know any better, so I was like, ‘OK, I’ll do that!’ And now, I’m still a cheerleader and it’s like eight years later.How does competitive cheering compare to movies like Bring It On?It’s accurate in the magnitude of the competitions, and how you have that short amount of time and those two-and-a-half minutes are so intense. But an all-star team isn’t run by people on your team, so the drama isn’t real. There’s drama, because that’s going to come, but you don’t have the power struggles or anything because you have a coach.

4. It seems as though in the past couple years, the cheerleading seems to have gotten better. Has there been any pressure to make the team better now that basketball is getting so much national attention?I don’t think it’s so much the increased attention — although that does absolutely make us want to be a better team — but it’s more the progression that cheerleading is taking as a sport — or not a sport, however you’ll take it. It makes it more necessary to become a higher-level team in order to keep your crowd entertained at games and to be competitive with other teams at competitions. Each year, there are more teams and you have to keep up with their level.

5. So usually I look up the athletes I’m interviewing to get their stats, but I couldn’t do that with you guys, so tell me about your recent successes at competitions.Last year, we went to the Cheerleaders of America Nationals in Buffalo and we scored higher than all of the other collegiate squads there.And what are you looking to do this year?Well, we haven’t decided yet. We hope to get to one that’s a little farther away that will have more collegiate teams to compete against. A bigger competition so it’s more recognizable.

6. Speaking of traveling far, we just clinched a spot in the NCAAs in basketball. Are you excited to get to go?Absolutely, yeah. I’m sure the basketball team is more excited than us, but we do look forward to it all year long. When we’re cheering at the games, we’re always like, ‘Oh, we can get to go to March Madness!’ The only tough part is we’re only allowed to bring 12 cheerleaders and we have a team of 25, so it’s a tough decision.How does it get decided?The other captains and the coach and I go through and we choose. There’s a system of attributes — like stunting, tumbling, attitude and motivation — so we choose the best team. We also have to decide who can work together to put up a stunt.So are people sucking up to you now?Um, kind of. It’s tough to decide.

7. Now I’ve been told that you secretly hate carrying the flag during routines.Absolutely. It’s not so much a secret!So why do you have to do it?Because they decided when we got the flag last year that it’s the guy’s job to carry it.Is that reverse sexism?[laughing] I guess so, yeah. We’re stereotypical in that during the ‘Hey Song,’ when the girls are dancing, I carry the flag because it’s not typical that the guy dances on the team. But as captain I’ve been able to get the girls to carry the flag onto the court when we’re cheering the team.Are there ever any really bad falls? It’s definitely a good thing, but I’m surprised that you never really see any at games.Yeah, there are bad falls at practice. This season, we’ve actually been pretty lucky with not having too many serious injuries. We do practice on mats so that helps a lot. It’s not so much the fliers that get hurt so much, but the bases. Because if the flier falls, we’re trained to sacrifice ourselves to catch them and we do, but sometimes you twea

k an ankle here or get elbowed in the face there when they’re on their way down.I’m actually surprised that you’re allowed to do all your tricks on the floor without mats.That’s where the regulations come in to play. What we do at the games — dismounting our stunts versus at competitions is very different because of the mats. And there’s different things allowed on the turf versus the track at football games.

8. OK, branching out a little, you worked at a circus camp last summer. I went to one when I was younger, so this is very exciting for me. How did you get involved with it?Well I went to a resort with my family that had trapeze and circus at it. And I had a natural ability for it and really enjoyed it, so when I was looking for summer jobs, I didn’t want an internship yet, so I looked for what else I could do. It was great.So you can definitely do a bunch of cool things. Brag a little for me.I can do the trapeze. We had a catch show, where the flyers are caught by a person on the other trapeze. And I caught a perfect show, which means I caught everyone doing all their tricks, which is very unusual. I learned silks, and I invented a new move called “The Jeffrey,” which doesn’t really exist, but once I got tangled and I thought it looked cool, so I named it. And then I do double trapeze and single trapeze — which is a stationary bar — and that’s about it.So when people say, ‘Oh, I’m going to go run off and join the circus,’ you actually could.People were afraid when I went to circus camp. They were like, ‘You need to stay an engineer.’ But that was my threat. Like if I do badly on a prelim, I’m like, ‘That was awful. I’m running away to the circus. I’m not doing this anymore!’Well, I’m a senior, and I don’t have a job yet, so I’m not even sure if I’m kidding when I say that anymore.

9. Instead of asking which team you’d most like to hang out with, I’m going to switch it up a little this week: What’s your favorite team to cheer for?Basketball. They’re most appreciative of us. More than football, which is the only other team we cheer for. They acknowledge us at times, which is good. On a social level, the teams are closer. But also, our coach and Coach Donahue work a little closer together, and because basketball is a little bit bigger than football —[Interrupting] Just a little. [laughter]— More than a little! Because it’s more well known, we’re able to make our presence known a little better, and it’s more fun to cheer for bigger, more responsive crowds.What sport that doesn’t have cheerleaders would you want to cheer for?I guess probably cheering for the lacrosse team because you need a sport that the action’s going to be consistent in, but also because lacrosse does well at Cornell, it would be another fun one to help get our team more out there.I guess you couldn’t cheer for hockey because you’d need to get on ice skates.[Laughing] That’d be interesting.

10. And then as I always ask: Which Disney character would you be, and why?I guess, sticking with the trapeze, I’m going to go with Tarzan. If he were wearing more clothes.That’s a good one.It would keep me doing what I love.

Original Author: Jasmine Marcus