#TGW: That's the Spirit!

March 28, 2016

By Jon Cooper | The Good Word

– It’s recruiting season for one of Georgia Tech’s key athletic teams and, on April 2, McCamish Pavilion is going to play a big part in it. The team doing the recruiting is neither the men’s nor women’s basketball team, although both will be somewhat effected. It’s Georgia Tech cheerleading.

With it’s acrobatic routines, Tech cheerleading is a unique group that fires up the crowd and pumps life into the dead time of timeouts. Members of the team rightfully consider themselves athletes, and, as such, are extremely competitive within what is a growing community. Also, like the players in the sports for which they cheer, they can be actively recruited by colleges.

The latter point is the focus on April 2, when McCamish hosts the second annual Southeast Cheerleading Showcase, which features Georgia Tech and 14 other schools from around the region, including rivals Georgia and Clemson.

“It’s one of a kind. Nobody else does it,” said Georgia Tech head cheerleading coach Katie Hodges (Class of 2007), a four-year letter winner for Tech, and an NCA All-American, who is in her fifth year at the helm of Yellow Jackets cheerleading. “It’s a three-hour event and is a pretty cool thing. It’s incredible for Georgia Tech. We are such a good host because the facilities are amazing, and we’re centrally located for all these schools.”

Tickets are $15 at the door (entry is free with a Buzz card), with competition beginning at noon.

Hodges considers it a win-win for everyone.

The Showcase provides the schools a final tune-up leading into next week’s NCA & NDA Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championship, which takes place April 6-10 at Peabody Auditorium in Daytona Beach, Fla., while offering prospective cheerleaders — be they high schoolers or middle schoolers — valuable insight into college cheerleading, first giving them an opportunity to observe the teams, then allowing them to go more in-depth by meeting the coaches at booths in a job fair-like setting on McCamish’s Mezzanine Level.

“What we do is we reach out to college teams from all around the area, and we ask them to perform. It’s a really big recruiting effort for them,” said Hodges. “They put up booths and people can come and meet the head coaches, which is a really big deal. Fifteen squads are performing but 20 teams are going to host booths there.

“We’re not necessarily picking out recruits, which we want for our programs,” she added. “We’re showcasing the personality of each program and what it’s like to cheer there, both from the style of cheerleading that they see in the performance and then also meeting with the coaching staff after the performances.”

This Southeast Cheerleading Showcase is something Hodges wishes she’d had when she went through the process of choosing a college.

“This is a chance for prospective cheerleaders, people who think they might want to cheer in college, to line up all the programs next to one another and figure out which is best for them,” she said. “Is it a big school? Is it a small school? Is it a competitive program? Is it a non-competitive program? The last step is to talk to the head coach. Is this someone who is going to take care of me? Is this someone I want to be with for the next four or five years of my cheerleading career? For a lot of these kids this is the highest level at which they can cheer, the college level.”

The Showcase also serves as a useful tool for the coaches in gauging their program against some of the region’s best and where they feel the sport is headed.

“The Showcase last year was a great opportunity for me as a head coach just to kind of compare different programs,” Hodges said. “We in collegiate cheerleading compete against each other at Nationals, but really we back each other up and want to learn about each other as much as possible, because it helps your program to grow. So that’s really what I got out of it.”

Hodges added that Showcase bore fruit for her team.

“Caroline and Kimberly Lemons, they’re freshman twins on my team, I actually met them at the Showcase last year for the first time,” she said. “Immediately after that we went into tryouts. It was good for them because it gave me a chance to get to know their personalities, so I could pick them out when they showed up at tryouts.”

She’s hoping for a bigger turnout this year as the sport continues to grow and receives greater commitment from schools.

“We’ve got these big gyms that are doing really well holding competitions, they’re growing,” she said. “Georgia Tech has an athletic trainer, who is amazing. That could be a big draw for an incoming freshman. Georgia Tech competes at NCAA Nationals in Daytona. They also compete at CHEERSPORT. Prospective girls and guys grow up in the sport, they grow up competing a lot. In college it changes a little bit because they compete a lot less and so that could help them form their decision. At the end of the day, our foundational reason for why we’re here is to support football and basketball and volleyball — some schools, like UGA, cheer for gymnastics, too, they cheer for more than just the core sports. That is something that we want to show in the Showcase, too. Show the evolution of the sport, there are a lot of guys in the sport, and it’s really one of your top athletic individuals.”

Hodges is spreading the word through social media and hopes that the Georgia Tech sports teams for which her squad cheers will reciprocate and support them at the Showcase.

“Last year the whole football team came. That was really nice,” she said. “A lot of the basketball team came, our strength and conditioning staff came as well. We’d love to have people come out. Last year’s support was pretty good. We need to get the word out and get people there to support your No. 1 supporters, your cheerleaders.”

For more information on the Southeast Cheer Showcase visit the Showcase website, and follow it on Facebook (Georgia Tech Cheerleading), Twitter (@GTCheerleading) and Instagram (@secheershowcase).

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