Understanding Others Through Pom Squad

Besides the burly football players, there’s another hardworking team on the field each Saturday. A bit more petite, its members hold brightly colored gold and maroon pom-poms in their hands and perform tirelessly, energizing the crowd with their fast-paced dance routines. I’m referring to the Boston College Pom Squad—the dance team I was a member of my freshman year.

I enthusiastically joined the squad because of my love of dance and my desire to perform under the lights at Alumni Stadium. Shortly after doing so, however, it became apparent that I had vastly underestimated the hard work involved.

I spent my first week at BC, a time typically filled with ice cream socials, info sessions, and icebreaker activities, trying to learn over 35 dance routines. After a long day of yelling “Go Eagles,” I dragged my tired body up the stairs to Upper Campus.

When I returned to my dorm, I collapsed on my bed. I wanted to join my classmates, chattering excitedly outside my window, but I could not muster up the energy.

Not understanding the work involved with the sport, my friends laughed when I complained of exhaustion. But when my honors professor had a similar reaction, I took notice. Being my freshman year adviser, she set up a meeting to get to know me better. After the typical questions—where are you from, what’s your major, how are you adjusting to college life, etc.—she asked what I was involved in at BC. I proudly responded that I was a member of the Pom Squad. Noticing her blank stare, I added that we were somewhat like cheerleaders, but based more in dance than gymnastics. I watched as the lines around her eyes creased, and she broke into a chuckle. I wasn’t surprised. Most people saw us as pure entertainment, instead of dedicated athletes.

The training did not get any easier after the first week of school.

We practiced for two hours, three times a week, and not being a morning person, the 9 a.m. Sunday practices were especially painful. On gamedays, I would wake before everyone in my dorm, the sunlight not yet creeping in from the edge of the curtains. Fumbling around in the dark, I would throw on my uniform, curl my hair and head to Alumni Stadium four hours before kickoff to receive my assignment. Some of us would hand out flyers advertising upcoming games, while the rest of us visited the various tailgate areas, engaging and taking photos with alumni and their children.

Two hours before the game, we would lead the football team from its religious service in Gasson down the Million Dollar Stairs. And then, it was onto the field for our pre-game routine with the BC Marching Band. For the next three hours, we were forbidden to sit, or even stand still, except for the 20 minutes during halftime when we ate lunch.

Just when football season ended, and we thought we could catch our breath, basketball season was already underway. The games were shorter, but we often had to dance at multiple games a week. Simultaneously, we were preparing for our debut at the College Dance Team National Championships in Orlando, Fla., where we would compete against some of the best dance teams in the country. The coach expected our routines to be performed with perfect synchronization. Mistakes were not tolerated.

Pom Squad is more than the pretty uniforms and photo opportunities. The next time you’re at a BC football game, take some time to watch the girls with the maroon and gold pom-poms. Their routines may seem easy, but that ease is the result of many sweaty and frustration-filled practices. Unlike the average fan, they cannot leave the game whenever they want. They cannot look defeated when the other team throws a perfect touchdown pass or makes a 3-pointer. Regardless of the score, they keep a smile on their face and jump up and down like the game has just begun.

I don’t find fault with my friends or my freshman year adviser for not realizing the hard work involved with being a member of the squad. Many times in life, individuals underestimate how much is involved in a certain activity. We think we understand something, when in reality, we do not.

I fall into this trap more frequently than I would like to admit. A couple years ago, I decided to ski down a black diamond with my best friend and captain of my high school ski team, thinking that the couple of lessons I took were enough to keep up with her. Instead, I ended up needing ski patrol to escort me down the slope.

Take the time to learn about your friends’ activities—whether it be soccer, debate, or theatre, try to avoid making assumptions. Instead, take the time to learn. You’ll be surprised how much you discover.

Featured Image by Abby Paulson / Heights Editor