BC Pom Squad Brings the Spirit
Published: Sunday, September 30, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Boston College football games can be an exercise in sensory overload. Between the clashes on the field, the uproar of yellow-shirted fans, the high-flying stunts of the cheerleaders, and the brassy clamor of the marching band, standing out would seem to be an extraordinary feat.
Yet a handful of young women do just that. Clad in understated black and bearing gold pom-poms, the dancers of the BC Pom Squad have made the football stadium their audience and the end-zone their stage.
Although the Pom Squad operates under the same umbrella organization as the cheerleaders, sharing some practice times, cheers, a budget, and even a coach, most of its members entered college with no cheerleading experience, but are classically trained dancers instead. "Spiriting was a foreign concept at first," said Corrine Sullivan, A&S ’14, "we didn’t know how to get people excited." "It was very weird going from dance to cheerleading. At first, the screaming was hard—the cheerleaders had it down but we were all squealing!" said Nikki Elliot, CSOM ’14.
The Pom Squad is also a relatively new component in the BC spirit organization. It was established just four years ago, so several of this year’s seniors were members of the inaugural squad. The team has since developed into one of the most prominent groups on campus.
Every such organization must have a center, and for the Pom Squad, that center is coach Lauren Millette. Considered the central authority of not just this group but of the entire spirit program, Millette, whom her athletes refer to affectionately as "Lauren," spearheaded the effort to bring a dance component to BC cheerleading. A graduate of Syracuse University, Millette was familiar with the system of two cheerleading squads, one the more traditional gymnastics-based and the other more dance-oriented, with the latter used primarily for basketball games. Upon her arrival at BC in 2005, however, she instead found two cheerleading teams, one all-female and the other co-ed. According to Millette, "I didn’t see the point of having two groups that did essentially the same thing." That first year, she began thinking about adding a dance component.
The next year, Millette held tryouts for a dance team in the style of the one she knew at Syracuse, but, as she explained, "I just couldn’t find what I was looking for." She ended up accepting no one. The following basketball season, Millette tried to incorporate dancing into cheerleading routines. "That season, in the middle of the game, all the cheerleaders would run and change into dance outfits for a performance," says Millette, "and people went crazy—that’s when I knew a dance squad could work here." Still, although some of the cheerleaders proved particularly adept at the routines, a number of them lacked the dance background to do what she envisioned, limiting the potential of such performances.
In the spring of 2008, she tried again, and this time, Millette found the talent she had been looking for. Still, she accepted only eight dancers into her program, noting, "I was really picky. I knew exactly what I wanted."
It is this dedication to excellence that has catapulted the Pom Squad to the competitive level. Not only will the team compete at its first Nationals this year, but it will do so with a gold bid, a mark of recognition granted by the National Dance Alliance following the team’s performance at NDA camp this past summer that will pay the majority of the team’s expenses. "That the NDA is willing to spend its own money to have us at Nationals, especially for a team that has only been around four years, is an amazing achievement. But it’s all because of these girls and how hard they work," Millette said.
According to Sullivan, "Even for vets, there’s no guarantee that there will be a spot. We have to make sure we’re keeping up, learning the new cheers and keeping ourselves healthy." She said she sees other members in the gym seven days a week, apart from the team’s two-day per week practice schedule, and knowing the dances from the previous year does not ensure a place on a team that adds entirely new sideline cheers and dance routines to the existing repertoire each year. It is Millette’s decision which members are ready to perform any given week.