The anticipation culminates seconds before opening kickoff as, “IT’S FOOTBALL TIME IN THE BLUEGRASS,” is heard over the sound system in Commonwealth Stadium. University of Kentucky fans erupt with cheers while a roar of excitement and energy fills the stadium. Hello fans, my name is Rob Ellery and I am a senior at the University of Kentucky! For Kentucky cheerleaders, gameday begins over two hours before kickoff and does not end until after fans clear out.
Our first responsibility on gameday is the CATWALK. We join the fans to make a tunnel for the team to walk through as they enter the stadium. As we walk out to the street, we pass out poms to fans and lead them in sidelines while we wait for the team to arrive. When the team makes their way into the stadium, the band plays the fight song and fans cheer as they get a chance to high five the players while they walk by.
Every gameday we get a chance to interact with fans at various pep rallies. This week we went to an alumni function hosted by the College of Agriculture. The dancers and the band joined us around the tent and we really focused on interacting with the crowd. At every pep rally we always make sure to include our C-A-T-S spell out and the traditional Two Bits cheer because they are fan favorites. The energy, excitement and crowd participation always seems to build with each event.
The band takes the field and we use our skills, signs and smiles to keep up the energy and excitement. During pregame the band plays My Old Kentucky Home and the whole stadium sings together. As the band finishes up their pregame performance, we use signs and stunts to lead the whole stadium in the spelling of CATS. Exciting music plays over the sound system and everyone in the stadium chants, “We Are UK,” to the beat of the song Zombie Nation. Once the football team is ready, two UK flags lead the way while the girls have smaller flags that spell out Kentucky and Wildcats. Everyone else tumbles out and then dashes to the sideline to get ready for opening kickoff.
Every kickoff we toss our partners to extensions and four of them have signs spelling out CATS. When the ball is kicked, everyone cheers with us, yelling, “C-A-T-S, CATS CATS CATS!”
Every first down we get our partner in the air as the band plays. Then we all yell, “U-K!” During timeouts we use pyramids, signs and/or stunts to lead the crowd in chants, especially:
GO BIG BLUE!
GO CATS GO!
We put up our defense and make noise signs every 3rd down to encourage the crowd to get loud with us.
When the team scores, some of the guys hold the Wildcat on a platform and he does a push-up for every point scored. Then, he leads the crowd in the spelling of C-A-T-S while we spell it out simultaneously with stunts and signs.
After the game we line up and sing along as the band plays My Old Kentucky Home. Some of the football players joined us after the win. The Wildcats pulled out a 27-13 comeback win over Central Michigan- I’m really looking forward to the rest of the season. Hope you enjoyed gameday with the UK Cheerleaders. Go Big Blue!
– Rob Ellery
– Photos Valeria Struckov and Michael Huang