Beyond the Sidelines: A look into the Boise State Spirit Squad and Mane Line Dancing team

Photo by Niamh Brennan

The Boise State spirit squad elevates game day spirit to the next level while also demonstrating their commitment beyond the field.

Cheerleaders are more than just a pretty face. They don’t just cheer for sports, Cheerleading is  a sport. The International Olympic Committee officially recognized cheerleading as a sport in 2021 and will be in the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, California.

Cheerleading is intense physical activity with dancing, tumbling and stunting to motivate a sports team, entertain an audience and compete in competitions. At Boise State, you can find the cheerleaders and Mane Line dancers cheering on the Broncos at football, basketball and volleyball games.

On game days, the spirit squad arrives four hours before kickoff for tailgating, parades and warm-up. Warm-up is essential for cheerleaders, as the stunts they execute must be perfected and rehearsed vigorously to perfect their gameday performance. 

“For people who aren’t familiar with cheer, I am a backspot. I like to describe a stunt group as a tripod,” senior cheerleader Darcy Gilfoy said. “When the flyer (top girl) is in the air, it is my job in the back to balance the stunt all together and take as much weight as I can off the bases (the two girls in front that hold the flyer up).”

The skills taught at practice are expected to be perfected and properly executed at each game or competition, which means stunt groups are committed to meet outside of regular practice hours.

If one member of the group is not completely engaged and mentally concentrated, stunting can easily lead to serious injury. A simple basket toss can send a cheerleader flying 20 feet in the air to land in the arms of her teammates. 

The process involves careful planning, attention to detail and an immense amount of trust for a flyer to be launched backflipping into the air. 

Not to mention, the intense gymnastic tumbling passes that are going on right next to a stunt, which includes a combination of backflips, twists, turns and handsprings performed with precision and fluidity; requiring a strong core, excellent body awareness and extensive training to execute flawlessly. 

As for the week-to-week practices, the team is no stranger to early call times. 

“Practice starts at 6 a.m. There is a call time of 15 minutes before or you’re late,” Gilfoy said. “So morning practice is more like 5:45 a.m.”

The cheerleaders engage in practices, including both regular practices or strength and lift training, at least four days a week to perfect their stunts, jumps and tumbling passes. Whether it be on the sideline or competing, the team is always showcasing their athleticism and teamwork.

“Cheerleading practices year round. Whether it’s game day or comp (competition) mode,” Gilfoy said. “Sunday night, Monday night, Tuesday night and Thursday night, not including stunt group meet ups and open gym practices.”

As one of the only year-round sports, when the team isn’t cheering on the Broncos, the Boise State cheer team competes nationally every January at the UCA College Cheerleading Championships in Orlando, Florida. 

The team performs a two minute and 30 second routine requiring intense strength, flexibility, comradery and coordination. 

Last year in 2022, the Boise State cheerleading team took home 6th place out of 1,125 teams across 33 states. 

Despite success off the field and in their own competitions, the cheerleading and Mane Line team are considered a club at Boise State. Meaning they are both 100% self-funded and rely heavily on donations.

“All our uniforms, our trip for nationals, our choreography, our gear is self-funded,” Gilfoy said. “We run on donations. We are so thankful to our donors because we do not get the same sports benefits.”

When it comes to the team traveling to away games, the spirit squad preaches seniority. Only a group of eight to 10 spirit squad members get to go to the highly coveted away games. The groups that go to away games normally consist of half cheerleading and half Mane Line dancers. 

Student-athletes are required to juggle their academics and athletic commitments in order to enhance the team’s reputation and overall success.The spirit squad has what they call “protect the program”, which means their grades must always be up to par to ensure everyone is presenting themselves well and holding up the standards of the program.

Everyone’s schedules are different with the team consisting of all different majors and different class standings making for ideal Sunday practices and almost no-days-off. Practices are scheduled early enough that they don’t conflict with class time and to ensure proper time management for academic obligations and social gatherings.

“We do have a few nursing students who have to leave practice 30 minutes early to get to their clinicals on time. They are superwomen,” Gilfoy said. “I don’t know how they do it.”

Head coach and spirit squad alumni Kelsey Messer ensures “school first, athlete second”. 

“We have regular grade checks and we as a team help each other out,” Gilfoy said. “Once we find out we share the same major with a teammate we form study groups and are always there for one another.”

Beyond Boise State, spirit squad members have the opportunity to try out for a myriad of different professional sports teams and carry on their passion.

“It’s been a great run. I have been cheerleading since age four,” Gilfoy said. “The cheer team led me to Boise State. I am honored to end my cheerleading career here as a Boise State cheerleader.” 

With energy and enthusiasm the cheerleaders and Mane Line dancers bring the Boise State campus to life, making everyday something to celebrate. 

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