Jan. 9, 2007
Freshman cheerleader Kimmy Barker (St. Petersberg, Fla.) shares her thoughts as the team prepares for the 2007 College Cheerleading and Dance Team National Championship at Walt Disney World from Jan. 12-14. On Friday, Barker and senior Randy Brown compete in the partner stunt competition before joining the cheerleading squad for the team finals on Sunday.
Check back as Barker will continue to update her journal throughout the week.
Monday, January 8, 2007
Stress levels are higher than normal this week, seeing that classes started today and competition time is only three practices away! In fact, stress took its toll on one of our male teammates who is sick with strep throat right now. In case he isn't healed by this weekend, we spent a portion of the practice adding in an alternate team member to fill his positions.
Some might view this news as a bump in the road; however, it seems as though we handled it more as an obstacle to overcome in order to become stronger as a team. We added in the alternate and hit the routine two out of two times, just as if our original teammate had been there performing the skills himself!
It was a real confidence boost to all of us to know that we are strong enough as a team to succeed even when faced with difficult circumstances. This past week has been the best week of practices and performances we've had all year. I'm feeling stronger than ever and so are my teammates. Everyday at practice [coach]Linda [Gooch] plays tapes for us to listen to about having a positive winning attitude. I feel that the tapes have really secured a sense of faith in ourselves, our teammates and our coaches. Everyone on the team is really trusting that each person will do their jobs correctly, and if something does go wrong we will all work together and do our best to fix the problem. We've only got one shot, and if we all trust each other and give 100%, I know we will succeed!
Tuesday, January 9, 2007
Today was a special practice because we were pressured to convince alumni cheerleaders that we continue to carry out the expectations of excellence that past UCF cheerleading teams have held and built on for years.
Our practice began with a few reminders from the winning attitude tapes we have been listening to throughout the week. Following that, we were informed that our teammate, Tyson Walters, was still not well and Cory Brown would continue to fulfill Tyson's positions until further notice.
Still headstrong we began our semifinals simulated warm up, which is planned to the second to ensure that every moment of our time will be maximized before Saturday's performance. Our warm up went well; however, the team and our spectators were surprised when our simulated semifinals performance was less than our best. Slightly discouraged, the team discussed the things to be corrected so we could turn the page on our upcoming finals performance.
We were very fortunate to be given the privilege to hear from a 1996 alumni cheerleader Brian Fornoles. He shared with us his memories of when he was in our same shoes some years ago when he competed for the Division 1A National Championship with UCF. It became evident to all of us that our experience this weekend will be an intense and life changing event. Working together in such a close unit during Brian's years as a cheerleader led him to a career as a firefighter, which requires the same type of teamwork. His words helped us to gain an understanding that the skills of commitment, responsibility and trust in one another we exercise together will be beneficial to our success during rest of our lives in countless situations.
With Brian's testimony in mind, we prepared ourselves to throw the best routine yet, as we plan to do on Sunday; we had a chance to redeem ourselves. With heads held high we took the floor a second time, in confidence of performing a winning routine not only for the alumni, but for ourselves. Throughout the second performance, everyone could feel the energy in the room and we all could sense how great it was. We did it! We were focused and positive and that's what made it so amazing. No doubt about it, we are ready for Sunday!
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
Today, we were given the day off from practice to prepare ourselves both physically and mentally for what we will encounter this weekend.
Throughout the day, I was able to reflect on our work throughout the year to the present. We've been through a lot this year and everything we've worked for all comes down to the two and a half minutes we will experience on Sunday evening.
I was also able to take a few moments to visualize my part of the performance being done perfectly. Often times at practice, Linda will give us a few chances to hit a perfect routine in our minds before we physically perform it. I have the music and the counts memorized. As I play the music through my mind, I try to remember all the techniques I have learned as I practice each skill mentally and move on to the next.
After I've finished hitting the most amazing routine I can imagine, I picture myself and how it will feel when we receive a standing ovation from the thousands of spectators in the crowd. I think of seeing the expressions on my teammates' faces, especially the seniors. I think of the emotions I will feel and how proud I am to be a UCF cheerleader.
Just one year ago, I was one of those spectators in the crowd cheering on the UCF team. I remember thinking that I could never be skilled enough to execute the types of difficult tricks that I saw being performed. It was a long journey, but I've done it.
My true reward will come on Sunday when our team's imagined perfect routine will come to life.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Today's practice proved that our skills must be taken seriously and we have to focus when executing them. We weren't as successful at hitting the routine as we have been recently. I know this bump in the road is another trial that will only benefit us if we encounter any hardships on Sunday.
Many alumni cheerleaders and friends attended the practice, and the excess adrenaline caused us to perform different than normal. It was a good learning experience because it made us realize that we will be faced with distractions this weekend and it is extremely necessary that we seal off the outside noise and people and focus on our jobs.
We were also reminded that we can't get emotionally involved in the routine itself and must give it no more or no less effort than we do at regular practices.
Even though practice wasn't as pleasant or positive as it usually is, we've had plenty of great ones to reflect upon so I'm still feeling absolutely confident we're going to pull together and put on an incredible show for everyone.
Tomorrow morning the rookies will be having a tour of Wide World of Sports so that it won't be a surprise to us on Saturday. In the afternoon, we're practicing with some other college teams at the Education Gym. I'm excited to see their reactions to our routine and to see how other teams compare to ours.
I'm also excited to wear the "K Shirt", which is a cheerleading tradition that takes place every year. (K stands for KNIGHTS!) The back of the shirt has a quote from Christopher Reeve which says, "Many of our DREAMS seem Impossible, seem Improbable, then we Summon the WILL, so they soon become Inevitable." The "Will" in this statement is referring to Will Hyde, who will continue to be with us in spirit all weekend.
After practice Randy Brown and I will head over to MGM along with Lauren Whitt and Chris Stadler to compete for a partner stunt championship! We've been preparing for months now, and the hard part is over. The fun part comes next: winning a national championship with my best friends.
Friday, January 12, 2007
Today was a very long day, but very exciting! We practiced with the cheerleading teams from Ohio State University, University of Tennessee, Wallace Junior College, and Louisiana State University. Today was such an improvement from last night's practice, we were really able to seal the mat and focus on our team and our jobs. We didn't hit the routine perfectly, but we were in control and we had so much energy!
All the team and spectators were amazed by our tricks, which made us all the more pumped up about performing them in front of more people this weekend.
After practice Randy, Lauren, Stadler and I headed to MGM to compete for a partner stunt championship. It was really exciting and we both did great! I enjoyed getting to perform once more in front of a crowd before our big performance on Sunday. Lauren and Stadler were awarded 5th place, and separated by only one point, Randy and I came in 6th place!
I am so proud of all our hard work and I had so much fun. I'm feeling really confident about our semi final performance tomorrow.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
We began the day with a warm up at a local all-star gym, where we fixed a few minor things so we could be better prepared for our warm-up performance. Everything went exactly as planned because we had been practicing those warm-ups for weeks in advance.
My favorite part about our warm-up is listening to a "pump-up" CD that one of our teammates made for us with our favorite inspirational songs. Listening to the CD became a kind of tradition at the beginning of practices, which brought us together as a team as we danced and had fun before things got serious.
We eventually made our way to the Milk House and onto the warm-up mat. We made sure to keep close in a circle as a team and not to become involved in the other teams' routines going on around us. This helped us to keep our focus on all that mattered this weekend - our success. Our warm-up was probably the best one we've ever done. We made our way to the performance area with smiles We all stood in a circle, the same way we had all year and had our team break. My heart started pumping just a little faster and my smile started to widen just a little further.
Together, we presented ourselves on the mat, trying to take it all in so that it will be just as comfortable tomorrow. As we moved from one skill to the next I could feel the excitement from myself, the crowd, and my teammates. I specifically remember thinking during our performance how precious those moments are in life when we get to feel that sort of energy rush and fulfillment in achieving our goals.
Our performance went really well with only a few minor, fixable errors. Linda spoke with us tonight about how we plan to fix those things in the morning, and I have no doubt that tomorrow will go exactly the way we want it to!
Sunday, January 14, 2007
Today we did it. We achieved the greatest goal we possibly could!
Not only did I dream about the national competition last night, but I woke up with butterflies in my stomach. Today was the day that we would achieve our dream, I was sure of it!
Luckily, we were the second to last team scheduled to perform in finals, so we were able to have a later start to the day. I spent most of the morning thinking about things we had discussed the night before in a team meeting.
Each person on our team was given a brick yesterday, to decorate however we liked and we presented them to one another later in the night. The bricks served as a symbol of "building a wall" between us and the things that could prevent us from achieving our goal. We had a purpose which we moved headstrong toward all season to achieve and nothing was going to stop us!
During the time we presented them, we were given a chance to reflect upon our work and the friendships we've built with one another. My freshmen peers and I all expressed how we felt it was important to win a championship for ourselves, but we felt most obligated to win it for the seniors because they deserve it most. They have served as excellent leaders and role models and have taught us so many things to aid in our success through the program.
Everyone on our team gets along so well and we are able to come together at those times when it is most important. There is no one person who doesn't want to win just as much as the other. We are so driven and so focused. There is no stopping us.
At the beginning of the year, our coach, Mike, would explain to us that our biggest fear should be thinking that someone was working harder than we were. His concept stayed with us all year long as we gave everything we could into all of our activities. Whether it was school, practices, games, workouts, merit events, or going through a loss, we put forth our best efforts and we were all there for one another and to pick each other up. I know for a fact that no other team could have possibly worked harder than we have.
We finally got to our pre-warm up we had practiced what seemed like a million times and it went exactly as planned. We fixed what little needed fixing and were on our way to the Milk House to discover who really was best this year. During warm-ups, we stayed focused on our team, just like we had practiced the day before. We hit another great run through the routine which really boosted our confidence. I felt like I was thinking a million things at once and I knew I was about to take part in the most crucial judgment I had ever faced. However, along with all those jitters I felt confident. I thought about how hard we had worked and decided that we couldn't be more ready for this moment.
We waited backstage, talked about how fun the next two and a half minutes were going to be and had our team break. This was it! We took the floor and the crowd was already chanting, "U-C-F"!
Honestly, I don't even really remember doing the tricks, they all came naturally after all the times we had practiced them. However, I do remember how exhilarated I felt each time the crowd roared louder and louder as the moments passed. It seemed like the further we got in our routine, the stronger we became. I didn't feel nervous. All I could feel was excitement and happiness. I had faith in myself and my teammates that we would pull through and achieve our goal no matter what. I could sense how well we were doing and I could hear how much everyone liked it. I tried to take every second of it in because those are the moments in life that I will remember forever. That feeling of achievement and pride will always be thought of when I remember the day. At the end of the routine, we went nuts! Usually our team's motto is "Dare to Dream", but the night before Mike told us he believed that today we would be "Living the Dream", which we definitely were. This felt exactly the way I had visualized it feeling all of those times. We received a standing ovation and the entire crowd was cheering for us. I've never felt such pride in all my life!
Awards time came not long after and we were assured once and for all that we had worked harder than any other team. Tonight we won Nationals 2007, and I am so proud to be a Golden Knight! This success was a life changing experience, and I hope that everyone is able to experience such a feeling of achievement at some point in their life.