If you're an avid figure skater and off to college, do you lament that your skating days will come to an end because, you know, you're off to college? Perish the thought! If you're a University of Minnesota Gopher Hockey Cheerleader, chances are, you'll be skating more than ever.
The Gopher Hockey Cheer Team at the University of Minnesota offers students the chance to combine individual and synchronized skating skills, dance and cheerleading, all into one unified sport. The 12 members (see above) perform skating routines in between hockey periods at Golden Gopher Hockey team's home games, and during the games, trade shoes for skates, and cheer and dance in the stands. During hockey season (October - March), the girls have three morning ice practices, along with two off-ice conditioning sessions. The members also balance a full course load with practices, games and events. Each member is expected to be a full-time student, maintain 13 credits and a 2.0 GPA.
What sets this team apart is that the members are talented figure skaters in their own right. Each has passed high-level freestyle, moves in the field, and/or ice dancing tests and some have competed nationally. Graduate student Rachel Faynik, a three-year veteran, explains that "the art of sharp cheerleading motions and choreographed dance can be taught, but grace on ice comes only with years of experience." Rachel also describes the team as "my destresser, my favorite source of exercise and my college family. Our team is so unique, no one else uses aspects of individual and synchronized skating skills, cheerleading and dance to create on and off-ice performances."
In addition to the ice talent exhibited at the games, the team is also involved in community service and fundraising projects (food and clothing drives are an example) and also holds skating clinics. The cheerleaders also strive to expand the public's awareness of their sport beyond schools in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota.
Tryouts for the 2008-2009 season will be held from May 1 - May 3. Skating skills that the coaches generally like to see: attempted Axel, layback spin, heel stretch (see demonstration at right), shoot-the-duck and tango stop. But the girls are encouraged to show all their skills, which are factored into the final score, as are overall presence and ability to memorize cheers and routines. So if you love hockey, figure skating, cheerleading, and performing, and wondered how you could combine all of this into one activity, look no further...