This year was impressive for the USU Eastern spirit squad with the cheer team earning first place in the Junior College Small Co-ed Show Cheer Category at the USA Collegiate National Competition. This was the first title for the USU Eastern cheer team and the third title for the university’s spirit squad.
As we reflect on the past season and prepare for the fall, we caught up with head coach Brandi Taylor-Johansen to ask her a few questions:
What were some of your goals as a team and as a coach this year?
“As a spirit squad, each team had goals to improve in their specific team’s technical skills and provide more entertaining performances. Cheer had goals for more difficult stunting routines and partner stunts, dance has goals specific to stylistic quality in their competition dance routine and more artistic choreography for their concert pieces, drum line wanted to create a larger repertoire with the addition to other instruments, and Emmett wanted to engage more in the public eye. As coaches, we always strive to have a positive year filled with accomplishing goals. We want our athletes to work hard, get good grades, represent our program and university with the upmost respect and class, and learn new skills that can excite our audience. I feel we all accomplished that this year. Congrats to the entire spirit squad coaching staff this year!”
Brandi Taylor-Johansen as spirit squad director and head dance team coach with Carson Enlow as assistant dance team coach.
Kelley Bradley as head cheer coach with Austin Kennedy as assistant cheer coach.
Ben Jones as head drum line coach.
What were some of the high points of the season?
“We always enjoy cheering on each team and the seasons this year were really exciting to be a part of. We enjoy participating in pink games for volleyball and basketball and we were able to help earn over $800 for a local community child cancer cause. The icing on the cake this year had to be when our cheer team placed first in the Jr. College Small Co-ed Show Cheer Category at the USA Collegiate Nationals Competition. This is the first time for our university in cheer and making it a total of three spirit squad national championships. Congratulations to Kelley and Austin and their team!”
What did you learn as a coach this year, both good and bad?
“Every year, I learn patience. I am a perfectionist. I enjoy high quality in all things and expect that from my athletes. If I ask something, I’d like it done right then and there. Managing a spirit squad of 35 members, and 35 different personalities, it can be difficult to get that sometimes. I have also learned that some expectations may need to be stretched out in order for there to be quality in what we are working on. I enjoy learning new strategies in how to approach new students. Every year, we work with students that learn a different way than what we are used to. Adapting to those students can be a challenge, but it keeps us on our toes and updates us for the growth and evolution of our sports.”
Who is coming back this season and what have you been doing in the offseason?
“I can’t necessarily say who will be returning. In our sport, we audition all, that includes members currently on the team. There is no guarantee that a member will make it for another year. They could be replaced by someone stronger, more technically skilled and more qualified. We have cut returners before. We are a full scholastic year sport, we are going all fall and spring, starting back up in August. The two months the athletes get in the summer is a well-deserved break; however, they are encouraged to work on specific skills in their area of expertise. Due to recent events, we are currently focusing on our mental frame and encouraging each other with constant communication. During the break, our cheerleaders and dancers are working from home building on strength and stamina, conditioning their bodies to prepare for when we meet again. We will be holding our team camps this coming August. We do have some athletes that will be returning, some even finishing their four year degree.”
What are some of the team’s accomplishments this past season?
“The cheer team and Emmett attended the USA/NCA camp in Vegas and learned new skills to provide in their performances to bring back home. Emmett was awarded the ‘Most Improved’ mascot for the entire camp and the cheer team brought back all blue ribbons. The dance team’s camp was held in SLC and they met with many professionals to learn new skills and choreography to prepare for the year and their annual concert.
The dance team was invited to perform for and teach all dance companies in the Granite School District and for the Alpine School District. This was a huge honor and we were able to meet over 600 dancers from all the schools that attended. The dance team put on their first dance convention called SOAR. They had dancers travel from seven different countries and it turned out to be a huge success.
The drum line was able to get all dressed up in lights and performed in the annual Helper Light Parade. It was great to have them represent our spirit squad program for two nights in the freezing cold.
Cheer, dance and Emmett performed at the Christmas Tree Regalia and put on some festive performances for the community. The dance team provided a boot camp fundraiser for dancers in Emery County at ShowTime Dance Company. The cheer team provided a Daddy Daughter Dance fundraiser for Valentines.
The cheer team, dance team and Emmett traveled to Anaheim, California to compete at the USA Collegiate Championships. The cheer team took Nationals in the Jr. Co Small Co-ed Show Category, the dance team placed second in HipHop and third in Jazz in the Jr. College dance categories, and Emmett placed fourth in the mascot category. T
he spirit squad kept up with community service and providing aide to those in need. Performances were provided at some senior living centers and money was raised for childhood cancer.”
As of right now, there are no summer camps, but we will keep people posted if that changes. Information about the 2020-2021 auditions are available at this link: https://usueasternathletics.com/documents/2020/4/14/USU_Eastern_Dance_Team_Video_Auditions_2_4_.pdf?fbclid=IwAR3xX8vv6TjLFQxQx_K_dlixVGpkd2xBGTvWRp7G4EhlI2p5WuI6yZaKgVw.