While the Knights are 0-11 this season, the spirit of the cheerleaders on the sidelines is no less powerful — if anything, they’re stepping up their game.
“I think that the cheerleaders are pretty much the ambassadors for the school, and we’re what everyone is going to base their perspective off of,” said cheerleader Tyler Peterson, a senior event management major.
Even when the team is struggling, Peterson said the cheerleaders are continuously supporting their school, traditions and players.
“No matter if we’re losing or winning, our players are putting in just as much time, so we’re going to back them no matter what,” she said.
Assistant coach James Kersey, who cheered for UCF from 2000 to 2005, stresses the importance of making sure the current cheerleading team is a positive influence on the field, encouraging the UCF football players and thanking the fans for supporting the athletes who are working so hard.
“We’re the embodiment of school spirit, so no matter what, we have to be positive about everything we’re doing. We’re there to cheer on all of our athletes, whether the season’s going great or not so great. That’s our job,” Kersey said.
Last year, the cheerleaders would do what they call third-quarter tours, when part of the team goes up into the stands to engage with fans.
“We brought it back this year because I think we felt like we needed more interaction, keeping everybody involved,” Peterson said. “We wanted to go up there, show them that we appreciate their support, let them know the players appreciate their support and just kind of get them involved in the game.”
With pride in her step and in her school, Peterson said it is important to remember the success the football team has had in the past.
“Just because this isn’t one of our best [years], I still appreciate our school, and I appreciate the successes we’ve had,” she said. “It’s hard when you’re not having a great season and the players are trying just as hard, so I have pride in them, and I want to support them because that’s what I would want.”
At UCF’s Spirit Splash on Oct. 23, the football players who spoke said even though the team is not doing so well this year, they still need their fans to be there for support.
“In the end, we know that it’s just an off season. We know that the boys are working their hardest,” said cheerleader Taylor Strauch, a senior hospitality management major. “It’s hard to get upset when you know someone’s still giving their all.”
Although it may be hard to always stay positive on the sidelines, Strauch said it helps to see fans stay in the stands rather than leave the stadium, which has been happening every game since the home opener.
“We still have true fans that stay till the end of the game,” she said. “They stay for the alma mater and the fight song at the end of the game because they’re die-hard UCF fans — those are the only people that really matter.”
Rachel Stuart is a News Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @RachSage or email her at RachelS@CentralFloridaFuture.com.