We are speaking today with Lauren Week, Cal Cheerleader Captain, regarding the NCAA Women's Basketball Experience and much much more. Here is some info from Ms. Week herself:
Hello to all the fellow California Golden Bears and fans! My name is Lauren Week and I am a current member of the newest addition to Cal Spirit, Cal Cheerleading. I'd like to start by saying that I am super excited to be interviewed for California Golden Blogs! It is great to be able to share the Cal Spirit experience with all of the fans! I'd also like to tell everyone a little bit about myself: I just finished my second year here at UC Berkeley, and am double majoring in Political Economy and Legal Studies, with a minor in Public Policy. After graduation, I plan on attending law school, where I would like to focus on Intellectual Property Law, hopefully staying in the Bay Area for the rest of my life. For now, I want to enjoy my next two years at the NUMBER ONE public university in the world, and continue representing Cal and Cal Spirit! I hope you enjoy the interview, and of course, GO BEARS!
Cal hasn't had a Cheer Team in over 30 years. If you think what we've had in recent history were our cheerleaders, you've been mistaken. That is our Cal Dance Team. Our Cal Cheer Team is different.
Today, Cal Spirit is changing history by brining in the first Cheer Team after a 3 decade absence. This past year was their first year of existence and they have made strides in improving their skills and becoming a successful and cohesive team of cheerleaders.
As a member of Cal Spirit and someone who sees what goes on behind the scenes during practice, I can say I've seen a lot of reasons why this team is going to wow our Cal Fan crowds this coming year and in the future. I can also point to one person who is helping make that happen.
Meet Lauren Week, a crucial member of the Cal Cheer Team. Lauren is one of the Cheer Team's fearless leaders. As a sophomore, Lauren helped bring the Cheer Team to existence without a coach to guide them until one was available. She was an asset in building the Cheer Team into what it is today and what it will be this coming season.
Lauren is a bay area native who was always destined to go to Cal. She bleeds blue and gold and is a Cal Bear through and through. She knowingly puts Cal in front of more important things such as schoolwork at times. As a campus tour guide and cheerleader, Lauren is a perfect example when people say the "face of Cal." She is a world-class citizen and an astute student. In the past year, I've gotten to know Lauren in a different light than just Cal Spirit. She demonstrates leadership and awareness in every aspect of her life.
After two a day practices and 3-5 practices a week with the Cheer Team, Lauren and the team have gone from a raw skilled group to a talented squad that is a vital part to Cal Fan gameday experience and more importantly supporting our student-athletes who represent the name we love.
Don't be surprised if you see her flipping up in the air alongside other cheerleaders at games. If you haven't been able to see the difference between the Cal Cheer Team and Cal Dance Team this past season, don't worry...you'll see it this season and can be sure Lauren was a huge part of that amazing difference.
Lauren and fellow captain for the 2011-2012 season, Brita Priest, during the fireworks show at the Holiday Bowl halftime!
1) What types of interactions did you have with the women's team/ how excited were they (as well as you) to be headed to NCAA?
The days leading up to the NCAA tournament were certainly stressful, but I couldn't help but be excited to be supporting the Golden Bears all the way across the country! It was awesome to have the amazing opportunity to cheer on the Women's team for two rounds in South Bend, Indiana. I must say though that my excitement was nowhere compared to the excitement the Women's team was feeling! You could just tell that they were so happy and grateful to get the opportunity and experience to be playing in the tournament.
Traveling to the Women's Basketball NCAA Tournament was different from the previous travel experiences we had because we saw the team on a daily basis. To put this in perspective for readers, while in San Diego for Holiday Bowl, the football team left for the bowl game a few days before we did, with separate travel accommodations, and stayed in a completely separate hotel. The only time I saw the team was during the actual game while cheering on the sidelines, so it was definitely cool to have more personal contact with the team I'd be cheering for, especially since everyone on the women's team is so nice! They are definitely some of my favorite people to cheer for because they are so appreciative of what Cal Spirit- Mic Men, Cheer, Dance, Rally Committee, Cal Band, and Oski included- does for them at all their games! One of the coolest things is that Eliza always makes sure to thank us after every game....it makes cheering them on even more worth it! (Not that it isn't already) At the NCAA Tournament we received personal thanks from all of the players multiple times, as well as from the Coach.
2) What's it like to fly charter with the team?
It was the first time I had ever flown on a charter plane, and it was definitely a very cool experience! Being able to make personal connections with the team was great, and flying with them on the charter plane only added to this.
The coolest experience about flying with the team and the rest of the spirit groups there would definitely have to be Cal's take-off tradition! The band plays "Fight!" as we're taking off and everyone sings along, including the team. That was such an awesome and incredible moment of Cal spirit and camaraderie- one of those priceless moments in life, especially since I love Cal spirit so much!
Cheering in front of the student section at AT&T Park this past football season!
3) What does a cheerleader do with so much down time before and after games?
Something else that was very, very different from this travel experience, and game day experiences at home, was how much downtime we had. While in San Diego for Holiday Bowl, although we were there for about five days, we had something planned for almost every single one of those days, including the parade and multiple rallies and battles of the bands. We were in Indiana for approximately eight days, and only had two things scheduled- the basketball games, which each only took about half of our day. Unfortunately, unlike San Diego, there isn't much to do in South Bend, Indiana. As we were walking around the Notre Dame campus and surrounding areas I would ask students (who were few and far between because it was there spring break at the time) or employees at some of the restaurants and stores what they recommended we do while in South Bend and all of them said "Leave." Luckily though, I was there with some of my closest friends- the other members of the Cheer Team, as well as members of Rally Comm and Band- both of which are awesome groups to hang out with, so we found stuff to do!
One of the coolest things we did is bus over to Chicago for a day. We did all of the touristy things, like visit Millennium Park, go to the Sky Deck at the top of Sears (Now Willis) Tower, and went on the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier! While in Indiana I e-mailed the Notre Dame Cheer Coach to see what she recommended we do while out there, and she gave us some ideas of where to check out on and around campus. The Notre Dame campus was absolutely beautiful- certainly different from Berkeley. All the buildings looked like churches, and the actual church was gorgeous. Around campus we checked out a couple restaurants, but they were mostly chain establishments- the same ones we have around here, and we also went shopping with our per diem. (One of the perks of traveling with Cal Spirit!) During the rest of our free time we hung out with Rally Comm and Cal Band at the hotel, and we did a lot of studying since a lot of us were missing midterms or would return the day before we had one...we also made a lot of trips to Perkins (like Denny's) and Wendy's- the only places within walking distance from our hotel, and ate a lot of Perkins' pie! It was certainly a bonding experience for the Cheer Team and for the rest of the spirit groups there!
4) How was it to bond with other cheer teams from other schools? Which school, of those you met, was the nicest? Which was the meanest?
We didn't get to bond too much with the other schools' cheer teams, but we did get to meet them! The Notre Dame Cheer Team was very welcoming and hospitable and we took a bunch of pictures together! The only other team we saw at the NCAA Tournament was the Iowa Cheer Team, but we unfortunately didn't talk much with them because we were both busy warming up before the game. On other travel excursions we also met the University of Washington Cheer Team and the Texas Cheer Team- both of which were super nice! And, of course, we have met the Stanford Cheerleaders- whose captains came and introduced themselves at Big Game. I actually know one of their captains from high school, so that was pretty cool to meet up, and hash out the rivalry!
Posing with Oski during the NCAA tournament at Notre Dame!
5) How was the atmosphere at the Notre Dame game? (Obviously it was a home game for them) How would you compare them to a Cal Fan crowd at a basketball game? And how was the atmosphere in respect to being a Cal Fan?
For the first game, where Cal played Iowa, the atmosphere was very dead inside the stadium. You could only hear the voices of our Cheer Team and Band and Iowa's Cheer, Dance, and Band. There were some Cal and Iowa fans, but the stadium was mostly decked out in green with fans from Notre Dame. The atmosphere COMPLETELY changed when Cal played Notre Dame though. It was probably one of the loudest, most intense basketball games I've ever been to! The entire stadium was on their feet all doing the same cheers and clapping their hands to the rhythms of the Notre Dame Band. The cool thing about it was that it wasn't students who made up the fan base, but alumni! I thought it was so cool that since most students were on spring break and couldn't come out and support the team that the Notre Dame Basketball Team still had such a heavy fan presence, and one that was super spirited! There of course have been some Cal games where fans are as into it as the Notre Dame fans were at the NCAA tournament, but those are usually only the big games- like against Stanford. I asked around, and it wasn't even the fact that it was NCAAs, but almost every single game has the same awesome, spirited atmosphere as the game I attended did. I wish every game at Haas could be like this NCAA game. I'm hoping next year we can "PACK THE HAAS" at every game- men's and women's!
6) How do you guys decide what cheers to do?
We decide what cheers to do based on what's going on in the game. If we have multiple cheers for a particular instance then as Captain I choose one of them at random, making sure we switch them up for variety. Our Coach- who has been an awesome aid to us this year since it is the first year Cal has had a Cheer Team since the 1980's- really emphasizes variety, so we can make things more fun and exciting for the fans! I always try to pick a cheer that I think will get the crowd most hyped up and excited for Cal Athletics! It's also nice to be able to work with the Mic Men- together we can make sure that the entire stadium is involved and that we have the right timing and right cheers to get everyone pumped up and into the game! (Because that's when the games are most fun!
7) What's the craziest thing that's happened to you guys on the sideline during a game? Any players land on you before?
Nothing too crazy has happened to any of the members of the Cheer Team that I can think of. In regards to players landing on us, the worst occasion was during one of the Volleyball games, and Tarah Murrey accidentally stepped on another one of the girls' calves. She had to sit out for a while, but there were no serious injuries. There also was a member of the Dance Team who was landed on by Harper Kamp during a Basketball game, but luckily she was okay as well.
One of the worst things that have happened though is during our first game against Fresno State at Candlestick Park. We were in front of a bunch of Fresno fans, which would not stop heckling us. I won't mention some of the meaner things said, but for example, since it was cold, we had white, poofy jackets on and they kept yelling "ESKIMOS" at us. They also called Oski a gofer every time he walked past and had a stuffed bear they had ripped the head off of that they kept waving in our faces in order to distract and antagonize us. None of it fazed us though, and eventually our advisor moved us over to a different location. It didn't matter though, because we won!
Another crazy moment, at least for me, is once while I was sitting out on the sideline during a basketball game a bunch of little kids approached me to ask for my autograph. It was such a cool moment to feel like a mini celebrity! Those are some of the best moments in Cal Spirit, knowing that something as simple as letting a little girl or boy hold your pom-pom while signing them a quick autograph can make their day!
One of the best game day experiences- cheering in the rain!
8) What's the difference between the Cheer and the Dance Team?
The biggest difference is that the Cheer Team uses stunts to lead crowd cheers and will also be tumbling. Both teams will be on the sidelines at all games supporting the Golden Bears and spreading Cal Spirit!
9) As a Cheerleader, how do you deal with ALWAYS smiling, even when Cal is down a heap of points in the second half? Where do you find that inside "perkiness" to keep at it and still cheer on your Bears when you know that it is going to be a loss?
I've been a performer all my life, so keeping a smile on my face comes naturally! If I'm ever bummed out by the score and feel myself faltering I just keep thinking about how much I love Cal and that I need to stay strong and keep supporting the Golden Bears. We have a joke on our team that the only two emotions we ever feel as cheerleaders is "surprised" or "excited," and we try to make sure that those, along with our inner "perkiness" are always coming across. Also, when we're losing is the time that we need to cheer the loudest, and is also the time, especially in the last minutes of the game, that the fans get the loudest, so it comes easily. I just keep thinking, "If I just cheer a little bit louder maybe we'll win!"
All of Cal Spirit- Cheer, Dance, Mic Men, Oski Committee, and Rally Comm!
10) What sort of preparation goes into an ordinary week during football/basketball season? How much time do you spend at practice per week?
I'd say, for practice purposes, I usually dedicate about 10-15 hours per week into Cheer during the normal football/basketball season. If I added all the hours together for everything in a typical week, including games, practices, and events, it'd probably be somewhere around 15-30 hours though, especially during the crazy weeks like Homecoming and Big Game Week, or when we had Football, Volleyball, and Basketball all going on at the same time! After we came home from the NCAA Tournament and things had started to slow down, we only spent about 3 hours a week at practice, but also had community and alumni events we had to attend, the most major one being Cal Day.
Typical preparation includes running through the fight songs and our cheers, going over and cleaning our half-time performance (during the Football season), conditioning, and now, since we have added in stunting, we spend a great majority of our time at practice doing just that, stunting. We also dedicate some practice time to team meetings to discuss upcoming events and for planning purposes.
11) You all seem to travel quite a bit; what's the funniest thing that's happened to the team while on the road?
There are too many funny moments to count! I'll highlight just a couple:
While traveling to Seattle, Washington, there was a woman who kept following us through the airport. It might sound creepy, but she was actually just a die-hard Cal fan. Just upon seeing our Cal bags, she ran across the airport to tell us "GO BEARS," and then continued to follow us around. On our flight back home we ran into her again, it was really funny! I'm also a tour guide here at Cal, and I use this story as an example of how much school spirit Golden Bears have, even when they're alumni. Once you're a Golden Bear, you're a Golden Bear for life!
Also, traveling with the Cal Band anywhere is really fun! While in Indiana, we played a lot of different games with the band while on the bus, and we actually started a rap battle. As of right now, Cheer Team is the champ!
Before Round One of the NCAA Tournament in South Bend, Indiana!
12) How much do you hate the USC song girls? How many times would you like to punch them in their collective faces?
I actually have nothing against the USC song girls. I'd rather support Cal than bash the other schools. GO BEARS!
13) What kind of uniforms do you prefer: Old school like USC or modern like Oregon?
I really like the uniforms we have here at Cal- right in the middle! They've definitely become more modern through the years, looking back at old dance team uniforms, but also remain traditional in the sense that they are family-appropriate. I think it's important to be family-oriented, since so many of our fans are the little kids that ask to hold our pom-poms, to sign an autograph, or to take a picture, but I also like the fact that our uniforms are more modern and "in style." I'm glad Cal has made that balance, so the girls on the team like what they're wearing, but can still be considered traditional and family-friendly.
13) How many hours a week of practice do you put in?
During a typical week, we usually put in about 10-15 hours of practice. As Captain I had to put in a little extra time as well.
An example of team bonding while traveling- we left on Christmas Day for Holiday Bowl so we got to celebrate the holiday together as a team!
14) What's been the coolest unexpected benefit of being a cheerleader?
It might seem really cheesy, but meeting some of my closest friends has to be the BEST benefit being on the Cheer Team has brought me. I spent so much time with the other girls on the squad, making so many unforgettable memories, and they were such a major part of my life last year, it would be impossible for them to not remain my best friends for the rest of my life!
Moving on from the gushy stuff, knowing a bunch of the Cal traditions and secrets is also a really cool benefit...and getting to meet the Chancellor and taking a picture with him was personally a really cool experience! The most unexpected benefit though? All the free food and treats we get on game days! I also can't forget how much I appreciated getting per diem, as a "broke" college student, on all our travel trips!
16) Does it ever feel weird being at non-sports events?
As long as there are Cal fans there, any event, even non-sporting events, are fun to cheer and perform at! The community rallies and events are also the best time to interact with fans, which can be such a rewarding experience! I've met so many cool alumni at these smaller, non-sporting events that have told me awesome stories about Cal Spirit and traditions from when they went to school. I guess it can be a little intimidating at first, but they always turn out really fun!
One of the perks of being a Cal cheerleader- getting to travel to cool places! Here we are in Chicago at Millennium Park!
17) Outside of the Pac 12, is there a school you look at and say "Wow, they have an amazing squad?"
Watching videos online, the University of Kentucky Cheer Team is absolutely amazing! They've won Collegiate Nationals so many times and they definitely deserve it! Also, last summer at cheer camp, the Sac State Cheer Team also really impressed me! Here at Cal we are just starting our Cheer program, but I know we can reach the levels these cheer teams are at now in the upcoming years!
18) More realistic depiction of cheer squads: "Bring it on" or "Fired Up"
I've actually never seen "Fired Up," but from what I hear from other girls on the squad, it is not a realistic depiction of cheer squads, so I'll have to go with "Bring it On." I think the movie captures the friendship, the athleticism, and the spirit that makes up a cheer team! Of course, since it is a movie, some of the more negative aspects of cheering are exaggerated, but I think it does a good job of highlighting the positive qualities of cheerleading!
19) How about some favorites, and why?
a) Men's basketball player
David Kravish: Once while promoting Cal Basketball with the Marketing Staff and the Men's Basketball Team, we were stopped by the owner of a new restaurant, Free House, who asked us if we'd all like to eat a free meal, and of course we said yes! While eating I sat next to David and he was really nice! It's also awesome that he's done so well as a Freshmen.
b) Women's Basketball player
Eliza Pierre: As I said, she has always made an effort to thank us for supporting the team. I really appreciate her taking the time to make sure we know that the team appreciates us.
c) Football player
Marvin Jones: He's a really hard worker and even though he's a student and an athlete he still is able to support a family. I wish him luck with the Bengals!
d) Game you've attended (any sport)
For Football I would have to pick the Washington State game. Why? Because it rained really hard! It might sound miserable, but it was so fun to cheerin the rain and we definitely made the best of the situation. I'll never forget cheering at that game!
As for Basketball, hands down- The "Gold Out" game against Arizona! The crowd's energy was awesome and made the game so fun to cheer at! Even though we lost, it was still such an intense and exciting game! (Of course, I prefer when we win though!)
The California Cheerleaders for the upcoming 2012-2013 season with our coach, Tara! Excited to be cheering in Memorial Stadium!