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Monday, December 05, 2022
The independent student publication of The Unversity at Buffalo, since 1950

What’s UB ‘Spirit’ all about?

The unsung heroes of UB’s courts and stadiums

<p>UB Cheerleaders delight fans during a recent men’s basketball game.&nbsp;</p>

UB Cheerleaders delight fans during a recent men’s basketball game. 

The Spectrum’s sports page has long featured athletic greats from basketball stars like Dyaisha Fair to NFL Draft hopefuls like Kodofi Wright. But these athletes play a small part in creating the electric atmosphere that surrounds UB athletic events.

The real heavy lifting is done by UB’s “Spirit Teams.”

UB has five different “Spirit Teams”: Thunder of the East Marching Band, UB Pep Band, True Blue — UB’s student fan section — The Dazzlers dance team and UB Cheer. 

“GO BULLS!”

“Let’s! Go! Buff-a-lo!”

These chants wouldn’t exist (at least not in an in-tune way) if it wasn’t for these squads.

“It’s free therapy,” True Blue graphic designer Emma Stanton said. “I scream at the absolute top of my lungs. It’s cool that we’re all being loud together,” Stanton told The Spectrum. 

 These “Spirit Teams” are the hidden backbone of UB Athletics: they give students, fans and athletes alike the perfect atmosphere to bleed blue.

“We bring that college atmosphere,” backstop cheerleader Lindsey Hurlbut said. “You want the students to be proud of where they go to [school]. Like proudly say, ‘I go to the University at Buffalo.’” 

“School spirit helps with that,” marching band president Kwasi Hammond said. 

Their dances, chants and cheers embellish free throws and beautify touchdowns. They give UB’s nearly 400 D-1 athletes that lump-in-the-throat feeling every time they come on or off the court, pitch, pool or track. 

“We bring that UB spirit and pep not only to football games and basketball games, but to people around us when we talk about what we do,” Thunder of the East’s social media manager Thomas Farry said. “I think that the entire UB community shares the love and light with the sports teams.” 

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These cheers audibly transform Alumni Arena and UB Stadium into raucous venues, even if the room is only filled with dull claps and dwindling crowds. These student “Spirit Teams” have to be on their A game as much as any of the student athletes they’re hyping up. 

“At the core of what we’re doing is to be at a sports game to help the athletes feel like we actually care,” True Blue president Alyssa Gomez said. 

We’re “a community,” True Blue photographer Nicholas Lividini added.

The enthusiasm of UB’s “Spirit Teams’’ is matched by their talent and drive. 

“It looks easy because people make it look easy,” Dazzlers dancer Breanna Duchatellier said. 

The height of their kicks, rhythm of their somersaults, virtuosity of their tempos and even volume of their shouts are trained day-in and day-out. 

“It’s fun so it feels effortless some days, but then also it definitely can be a lot of hard work at the start of the season when we’re getting things going,” Farry said. 

High-level athleticism isn’t exclusively reserved for the athletes; the spirit members, too, perform exceedingly powerful feats.

“We are working hard, destroying our bodies too,” Hurlbut said. “We don’t spend our practices working on game material. We spend them working on material that we want to compete with one day.” 

Cheer members aspire to make an impact that goes beyond the sidelines. Cheerleaders at UB dream of making the NCA and NDA College Nationals in Daytona. It’s at this event that the cheerleaders hope to take home a coveted national title and megaphone-clad trophy.

In the same vein, Duchatellier — an award-winning dancer — aspires to perform in the NBA or NFL one day, taking inspiration from the success of the renowned Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders and the bright lights of the Super Bowl Halftime Show. 

“Dance and cheer are all sports as well. We all work hard, we dedicate our time, we have practices all week, we have to learn things so quickly. We have to test our bodies physically, mentally, emotionally,” Duchatellier said.  

Every “Spirit Team” shares in this graft and glory. 

“After a lot of basketball games recently, people will come up to us and say ‘Man you’re a big reason why we come to these games,’” Hammond said.

But with increased recognition comes tremendous commitment. 

True Blue aims to attend as many sports games at UB as they can, while the marching band practices three times per week. 

The Dazzlers and cheer squads have a relentless training schedule, practicing three times per week for two to three hours  on top of their weekly performances at games. 

“It could be all week basically,” Hurlbut said, recalling when the cheer squad was “together for six days straight” two weeks ago. The Dazzlers had a similar experience where they were spending so much time training and dancing at games that Duchatellier was “dancing every single day.”

Ten-hour days at football games and hectic 12-hour boot camps in Fall’s ‘Band Week’ make for a rigorous lifestyle for these students. 

It’s “go, go, go all year round,” cheer flier Samantha Campanella said. Unlike some of UB’s D-1 athletes, the cheerleaders have twice the normal load — covering both the Fall and Spring semesters. 

They are student-athletes too. 

So do these teams necessarily get credit where credit’s due?

“I think if people came into a week in our lives and saw how much we do they would actually be really surprised,” Campanella said. 

Putting in these hours is a huge commitment for any member of UB’s “Spirit Teams” and it can take a toll quickly. 

“We’re all students first, we all have busy schoolwork schedules,” Farry said. 

Sometimes it can feel like the UB cheerleaders need their own cheerleaders. Some members of the squad say they feel underappreciated by the school and its students. 

“We are constantly asked by the university to come to everything, so we drop everything and do it. Because that’s our job, and there’s this lack of appreciation sometimes for us I feel. They expect us to drop everything on a dime but we don’t get anything in return,” Hurlbut said. “It costs nothing for them to simply recognize us and recognize what we’re doing.”

These frustrations are echoed through how the cheer squads have had to wear the same uniform for four years (eight whole seasons). 

“I feel like it can be underappreciated, like the work we do,” Duchatellier said.

“Sometimes it’s like, ‘Did you think about us?’” Stanton added. 

But this sense of devaluement isn’t the case across the board. 

“I feel like everybody knows who we are and I feel like we’re very supported, even by the staff,” marching band social media manager Mary Dixon said. 

Katherine Gaynor, True Blue’s social media manager, echoes those same thoughts.

“The coaches and the higher-ups go out of their way to help out,” Gaynor said, emphasizing UB Athletics’ appreciation t for their hard work. 

Gomez went on to highlight how UB football head coach Maurice Linguist reciprocates True Blue’s energy and calls for them to come out on game days. 

Or maybe this isn’t reciprocation at all. 

“I mean they deserve more spotlight than we do, because they’re the ones actually playing that sport that we’re watching,” Hammond said, explaining that spectators come out to watch the athletic teams, not the “Spirit Teams.”.

But while they may feel underappreciated compared to the athletes, the differences are even starker between the “Spirit Teams” themselves. 

“Compared to the marching band, the cheer squad and the Dazzlers we definitely are a little overlooked,” Stanton said about True Blue. 

But common bonds of hard work and passion for bringing heat and energy to the main stage is what forges clear relationships between the different “Spirit Teams.” Just like a “partner in crime,” these teams don’t have to be the best of friends to share their electric zeal, Duchatellier said.

“We all chime in on the same chants, we’re very linked with them,” Gomez said about the unity she feels these teams share with each other. 

“We love to watch them dance,” Hurlbut emphasized about cheer’s support for the Dazzlers’ performances. 

At the end of the day, the community feel and positive impact these teams bring to UB is indisputable. 

“The kids look at you like you’re a little celebrity,” Campanella said.

UB’s “Spirit Teams” are rightfully known as the Bulls’ personalized hype men, but they are in their own right talented, top-tier, athletes, musicians and fans.    

Sophie McNally is an assistant sports editor and can be reached at sophie.mcnally@ubspectrum.com


SOPHIE MCNALLY
IMG_5208 (1).jpg

Sophie McNally is an assistant sports editor at The Spectrum. She is a history major studying abroad for a year from Newcastle University in the UK. In her spare time, she can be found blasting The 1975 or Taylor Swift and rowing on a random river at 5 a.m.  

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