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UJ adding cheer and dance teams to athletic program

Starting next fall, athletic events at the University of Jamestown will have more spirit than before. The UJ athletic program will include competitive cheer and dance teams starting in fall 2017. Ashley Stubbs, UJ student, was hired as the compet...

Ashley Stubbs
Ashley Stubbs

Starting next fall, athletic events at the University of Jamestown will have more spirit than before.

The UJ athletic program will include competitive cheer and dance teams starting in fall 2017. Ashley Stubbs, UJ student, was hired as the competitive cheer and dance coach in October. Stubbs will recruit student-athletes to compete on the teams beginning next fall.

UJ Athletic Director Sean Johnson said the teams will give young women another competitive opportunity and help improve the culture at sporting events.

The teams were approved as affiliate members in the Great Plains Athletic Conference beginning next fall before the school becomes a full member in fall 2018, Johnson said.

GPAC changed cheer and dance from invitational events to championship sports in October, according to the conference's website. The change means the sports have championship status and qualify for points in the GPAC All-Sports Trophy standings and All-Conference honors. All of the 11 other GPAC schools have a cheer or dance team or both, except the College of Saint Mary and Mount Marty College.

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The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, which GPAC is a part of, is the first athletic association to offer a national championship in competitive cheer and dance, Johnson said.

The cheerleading team involves a little bit of everything, Stubbs said, including stunts, tumbling, routines and jumps. The dance team will focus more on blending styles together into a routine.

Johnson said UJ had a dance team for a couple of years before he became athletic director in 2015, but when the coach left, the team was left in limbo. Johnson said he was looking for an opportunity to increase female athlete participation, and since the NAIA and GPAC have the structure for competitive cheer and dance teams, it was an obvious choice.

The school advertised nationally for a cheer and dance coach, but had somer trouble finding someone, Johnson said. Stubbs was interning with Johnson at the time and had a competitive cheer background. Johnson said he thought Stubbs was the perfect fit for the position.

"What she maybe lacks in experience, she more than makes up with effort and attitude," Johnson said.

Johnson said when he talked with cheer and dance coaches from the area, many of them only had cheer experience. Stubbs will also have a great group of veteran coaches at UJ willing to help her, Johnson said. The admissions team also works closely with the coaches, he said.

"A young coach needs a support system and we have it here," Johnson said.

Stubbs will graduate in December from UJ with a major in exercise science with a coaching emphasis. She said she has always wanted to coach.

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"It's a great feeling," Stubbs said. "I've done assistant coaching at my high school and even when I'm not coaching, I like to help my teammates after practice."

Stubbs said since this is a brand new program, it is important to set up the program the right way so the teams can be dominant in the sports.

"We want to get the best dancers and cheerleaders that represent the school well," Stubbs said.

Stubbs said her goal is to have 20 athletes on each of the cheer and dance teams.

"If there is more, that's great. We want to be able to give athletes an opportunity that most schools won't offer them," Stubbs said. "We'll be able to be one of the few schools to offer athletic scholarships (for cheer and dance), and that will set us apart."

Johnson said the state has many high school dance programs, so UJ will be recruiting for a sport people are interested in.

The cheer team will perform at Jimmie football games, and the dance team will perform at basketball games, Stubbs said. Other sports teams have expressed an interest in the teams performing at their games, but the exact schedule hasn't been decided, she said.

Aside from performing at UJ games, the cheer and dance teams will compete in GPAC competitions, Stubbs said. The teams are required to compete in three conference championships, but Stubbs said her goal is to compete outside the conference as well.

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The teams will be fully integrated into the UJ athletics department as varsity teams, Johnson said. Cheer and dance involve a lot of training and hard work, which takes dedication and time, Stubbs said.

"There are some people that don't believe cheer and dance are sports, and I invite them to come practice with us," Stubbs said. "We are just as much athletes as the other teams on campus."

Stubbs said part of the challenge of the coaching position is changing the face of the program and making the team stand out.

"I'm very excited," Stubbs said. "I've thought about what I was going to do when I graduated, and this is happening a lot sooner than I thought. But I'm ready for this challenge. It's a really great opportunity at a great school."

Related Topics: UNIVERSITY OF JAMESTOWN
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