Two former GW cheerleaders are stepping up to co-coach the team just one week before the season begins.
After former cheer head coach Robert Bell left his position late last month, alumni and former cheer members Tiffany Jones and Josh Cohen will both fill the role. Cohen and Jones said that they have regularly kept in touch with the team by attending practices and games after they graduated in 2016, and they want to use the leadership opportunity to boost audience engagement and game attendance.
“While we’ve only been around for a short time, we’re very impressed by their individual talent as well as their cohesion and ability to play off each other and build off each other,” Cohen said.
Cohen had no prior cheer experience until he joined the team his freshman year of college. Having competed in gymnastics during high school, Cohen said he was looking for a team environment and decided to give the GW cheer team a shot.
“I did high school sports, so it was one of those situations where I didn’t do a [Division I] sport when I got to GW,” Cohen said. “But I was still looking for that team environment and they came looking so I said, ‘Why not?’”
In the days leading up to the first games, Cohen and Jones said they’ve primarily worked with the team on skills like two-base and co-ed stunts to prepare them for game days and the men’s opener Saturday. Two-base stunts consist of two people each holding one of the flyer’s feet, while coed stunts include one person holding up the flyer.
“Our drill is to have each of our flyers rotating through a succession of groups to get them to increase their ability to adapt to different groups’ styles,” Cohen said.
The team has focused on getting comfortable with the high energy of games by completing cardio workouts to increase its endurance for the first games of the season, which began last week.
“A lot of it is just getting comfortable with the pace and performance level of basketball games for the team since it’s really hard to explain it before you’ve actually lived it, so that’s where we’re at right now,” Cohen said.
For the upcoming season, the coaches said they want the team to “feel comfortable out on the court” and engage with those who come to the basketball games. Jones and Cohen said they want to prioritize increasing the team’s presence on the court and exciting spectators by perfecting and performing difficult stunts.
“One of our big priorities is engagement,” Cohen said. “Cheerleading is meant to pump up the crowd and cheer on the players, yes, but also ensuring the crowd is excited as part of the entire game day experience so that they can cheer on the team, get excited and actually come to games.”
Jones said she started cheerleading at just 7 years old. She started off as a dancer in kindergarten but switched to cheerleading because she said it looked more fun.
“In any other sport, you’re trying to get better individually. With cheerleading, there are individual things you can do, but at the end of the day, there’s another person standing on top of you,” Jones said. “It’s genuinely the most team sport I’ve ever done.”
Jones said she wants to sharpen the image of the team and present it as a pivotal part of the athletics program and for improving game days.
“Just trying to hone in on what we want the brand for the team to look like and what the image we want to put out there is,” Jones said. “Not only for the cheerleading team, but for becoming an asset to the athletics program more generally and improving game day experience.”
Jones said despite stepping into the position late in the semester, she is looking forward to seeing the team’s skills improve.
“I think they have so much potential,” Jones said. “I think there’s a lot of raw talent there that just needs to be organized a little bit better. They have such great and interpersonal dynamics, and you can tell they already get along really well and they’re a really good family which is really impressive to see, so I think we’re off to a really great year.”