The Liberty University Cheerleading team finished 10th in the DIA Coed Cheer competition in 2023 Universal Cheerleading Association (UCA) & Universal Dance Association (UDA) College National Championships, held January 13-15 at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.
While the team competes in Liberty Football games as well as men’s and women’s basketball games, this competition marks the only opportunity for the team to compete against other universities. The team performed a two and a half minute routine on January 14th and advanced to the finals the following day.
Competing at the DIA level, the highest for collegiate cheer, the coed team defeated some well-established programs including the University of Tennessee, Ole Miss, University of Cincinnati and Penn State.
“When those schools come to mind, you’re like, ‘Wow, they have a really developed athletic program that’s been around for decades,'” said head coach Nicholas Thomason, who is in his second year at the helm. We enter and we are placed higher than everyone. “It’s a huge accomplishment for Liberty, and part of that accomplishment is that we can be as well developed as a program as all these other athletic programs. we have.”
Liberty faced a challenging training regimen leading up to the competition, with practices consuming six to eight hours each day in the two weeks leading up to the event. These weeks also include team bonding time to help promote camaraderie.
“It’s taxing on the body,” said Thomason, who was previously an assistant coach. “It’s exhausting, and so there’s a lot of conditioning that goes into it too. There’s a lot where we train our bodies, but I also want them to train their minds so that they go out there, and as athletes, they’re able to overcome obstacles, whether it’s physical injury, stress, or pain, fatigue, whatever, learn to overcome that obstacle. It’s as much a mental game as it is a physical game. The more you can overcome that, usually the more successful you are.”
This marked the team’s second-best finish at the DIA level, after finishing fourth at nationals in 2021.
As Liberty’s NCAA Division I athletic program continues to field competitive teams, Thomason said he wants the cheer team to continue to grow and represent Liberty well. To achieve this goal, he plans to improve the team’s female team for future competition and strengthen the presence of the team’s mascot.
Sparky, Liberty’s mascot and a member of the cheer team, also traveled to Orlando to compete against other mascots and finished in ninth place.
Thomason said the cheer team plans to focus on overall improvement moving forward. With many of the current team members being freshmen and sophomores, he emphasized the importance of growing as a team and as individual student-athletes.
“A lot of it is learning how to be a collegiate cheerleader and what to expect, because our main obligation is not this competition,” he said. “Our main obligation is to be a support system for football and basketball. Learn time management and learn to be competitive at the same time and be in many events to support, which is in our job (description), and on top of being a student. I think a lot of them are working to be more successful athletes, but ultimately to be successful student-athletes.”