Sept. 11, 2000

by Jane Pater

Most people see them on the sidelines or in the gym with smiles on their faces chanting, “Go Irish go! Go Irish go!” When crunch time hits on the field, they are the ones to make the crowd come alive and make the opponents wish they had stayed at home. After a long day at work, they can be found signing autographs and posing for pictures with adoring fans of all ages. Who are they? They are the cheerleaders of the University of Notre Dame.

Hailing from all over the country, these 28 men and women act as ambassadors for the University in South Bend and around the world. Regardless of their residence hall affiliation, major or outside interests, they represent the student body and the school to everybody who watches Irish athletics. In uniform or street clothes, Notre Dame’s cheerleaders are held to the highest standards.

Beginning with tryouts in April of the school year preceding a football season, the cheerleaders dedicate many hours each week perfecting their routines and the stunts. After completing a series of auditions before a panel that includes representatives from the Alumni Association, Academic Services and several offices within the Athletic Department, the finalists sit down for a private interview with the panel to confirm their desire to represent the University nationwide.

The new cheerleading season starts with the Blue-Gold game in late April, also giving new members their first encounter with the community outreach program that becomes an integral part of their service as Notre Dame cheerleaders. This past April’s game brought together the Irish squads and 119 cheerleaders from area schools.

While summer means a break from classes, it in no way means a break from cheerleading. In order to start the fall season strong, the cheerleaders work on strength and conditioning and the perfection of their primary cheers over the summer months. When they arrive back on campus for team-building activities and a fast-paced workshop to learn new stunts and cheers, the cheerleaders are revved up for another exciting year of Notre Dame athletics.

In order to cover the vast array of Irish athletic events, the cheerleading team is comprised of two squads. The varsity squad attends every football game, pep rally and home men’s basketball game, while the Olympic squad cheers for home men’s soccer games, women’s soccer games, volleyball games and women’s basketball games. In the 1999-2000 school year, the two squads combined for 180 appearances at sporting events and community service activities.

Given their highly visible role as ambassadors for Notre Dame, the cheerleaders feel a sense of responsibility to give back to the communities that support them. Both at home in South Bend and on the road, the team takes time out to work with those in need. Appearing at events varying from the Logan Center auction in South Bend to serving Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless in Coney Island, the cheerleading team ensures that the community around them is enriched by their efforts.

Despite the busy schedules their sport demands of them, the Irish cheerleaders have managed to stay focused in the classroom as well. In 1999-2000, 19 members earned Dean’s List status and the team’s average grade point average in the fall semester was 3.233. With their obvious desire to achieve, nothing less would be expected.

Led by head coach Jonette Minton for the past seven years, the Irish cheerleaders practice four days a week and add two days of strength and conditioning to their schedules during their season, which formally runs from September through April. Minton was joined four years ago by assistant coach Brian Egendoerfer, enabling the team to accomplish more in practice and to have a sponsor at each of their events.

Their continued development is evident in the expanding number of gravity-defying stunts spectators can watch on the field and the never-ending noise that emanates from the stands in the house that Rockne built on Saturday afternoons during football seasons. As the cheerleaders attend games across the country, the spirit of Notre Dame travels along with them. Putting forth the extra effort to help lead the Irish to victory both on and off the playing field, the Notre Dame cheerleading team plays an integral role in the success of Irish athletics year-round.