In a calculus class at the University of Connecticut two years ago, Avis Ebron was thinking about how boring his freshman year was.
He was sitting next to his friend and randomly thought about what to do and said, “what if I do cheer again?”
He then made the decision to try out for UConn’s cheer team and made it.
“I will 100% say it was the best decision of my life. No matter how bad my day is or how bad the practice is going to be, cheer is my happy place,” Ebron said. “The team is my family, and this isn’t just that generic statement that most teams say. We struggle to stay away from one another because of how much we love each other.”
He first cheered in his junior year of high school. The year prior, he was on the basketball team.
Between the end of that basketball season and tryouts for cheer the following year, he realized playing hoops wasn’t interesting anymore, but that he still desired to do something sports-wise.
This led him to trying out and cheering in his junior year, but he did not end up continuing his senior year. He was the only guy on the team and felt out of place, but he did enjoy it.
“High school Avis would have said it’s fun cheering, but also very very weird because I was the only guy and wasn’t super outgoing, so I felt like an outcast even though the people were super nice,” Ebron said. “But UConn Avis would say it’s the best experience in the world because it really feels like you are just put on the field to (as my coach loves to say) ‘get weird.'”
It’s hard to be a male cheerleader because of public perception. Starting off in this role can be a huge adjustment because you are very up close and personal with your teammates and this is not an everyday thing.
“You get over that very quickly, but it’s still funny to see new guys come in and be concerned about touching their flyer,” Ebron said.
Ebron’s favorite part about the sport involves those flyers.
It’s the stunts.
When you throw someone into the air and have them land in your hands, it is a completely different experience then any you will get in another sport.
“That’s definitely my favorite part of cheer that I physically do. But something that I actually enjoy a lot about the sport that I don’t personally do a lot of is the tumbling. Especially when someone does a really complex pass where they are connecting several twisting skills together,” Ebron said. “To someone who doesn’t do cheer, it’s pretty amazing to see someone flip their body like that. Yet it’s almost more amazing to people who have practiced it and know what work goes into getting skills like that.”
Despite being a male in a female dominated sport, the guy who did not want to cheer his last year in high school now runs out and gets packed crowds of Division I fans excited and into a game.
“It really is just me out there having a great time and drawing attention to myself,” Ebron said. “Which is very weird, because I’m a complete introvert, but when I put on that uniform, I become a different person.”
What makes the sport special for those like Ebron is that you cannot succeed without your teammates. In cheer, you cannot do basic level things if you are not all on the same page. It really forces you to trust the people you are with.
Cheerleaders are also expected to keep a smile on their face no matter the situation. There may be a football player getting run over on the field, but when he gets back up, he does not need to smile or fake that he isn’t hurt. On the other hand, a cheerleader shows strength in hiding the pain and continuing the performance.
“You can be falling from a stunt, but you are still expected to do it with grace and a smile,” Ebron said.
The introvert cheerleader who gets people amped up, traveled to Memphis for the first time in his life with the UConn squad for the men’s AAC Tournament. It was also his first time on a plane.
He also went to Disney for UCA Nationals. It was his first time at Disney as well.
“That was a cool experience because it was my first cheer competition and it let us show all the hard work we have been doing throughout the season,” Ebron said. “Truthfully, all my best experiences come from cheer showing me something for the first time.”
Beyond all the experiences he has had in cheer, Ebron and almost every cheerleader’s favorite moment comes when they get out in front of the crowd.
Just like the athletes playing, the cheerleaders have fans to impress. It’s easy to boo at them, but they still battle through it like in any other sport. But, more times than not, the fans are cheering along with them.
“It is literally the greatest and most nerve racking feeling in the world. Especially in Gampel Pavilion. Seeing all those fans screaming for your team alongside you makes your entire body swell with euphoria. When it becomes a timeout and you have to take to the court to perform for the fans, it literally is just a different feeling,” Ebron said. “Watching the crowd go nuts because I threw a whole human into the air and had them land in the palm of one hand and stay, I believe that is actually my favorite part of cheer and what makes it so addicting. Everyone has their own ‘why,’ for what makes them stay in cheer. One of mine is definitely entertaining the fans.”
It’s not hard to see past this, but cheerleading shares so many similarities with other sports and should never be counted out as one.