Responsible for pumping up and entertaining crowds, Fairfield’s Dance Team, Cheerleading Team and Pep Band, play a vital role in creating a fun and competitive atmosphere during Fairfield’s home basketball games. The Spirit Squad and Pep Band attend every home game and they do this without any incentive. They promote their team at pep rallies, stag days, and even hold clinicals for “little stags” without any physical award. Their passion to entertain and perform is what keeps them going.
During the first couple of weeks of the semester, students are invited to try out for the group of their choice and once given the opportunity to be on the team, practices begin. Practicing about two to three times a week for two hours, the groups have about two months to prepare for the basketball season that starts in November.
At any of the home games, including men’s and women’s games, played at both Alumni Hall and Webster Arena, Fairfield’s sideline performers work in sync to keep the crowds and athletes energized.
“Dance and cheer both work to do sideline and timeout dances and cheers. We will even occasionally work on a piece that incorporates both dance and cheer in it for pep rallies and halftimes,” said captain of the dance team, Deanna Martinelli ‘17. “The pep band works hard on the music that we use to dance and cheer.”
When the full swing of basketball season really takes off, the dance team, cheer team and pep band can expect to spend a good majority of their weekend on their feet, cheering for the Stags. Oftentimes, there were doubleheader games where the groups would spend about six hours at Webster Arena. However, these long hours help turn the groups into families.
“It was tough when we had weeks with games on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, then practice Sunday and another game Monday,” stated senior captain Alice Paterson, “but being with my teammates and doing what we love, made it fun.”
The pep band, consisting of about around 30 members, is no different from the dance and cheer teams when it comes to encouraging the basketball team. Performing songs like “The Fight Song” and “Because I’m Happy,” the band situates themselves in the stands playing loud for the entire arena to hear. In the past, they’ve even made individual posters and signs for the athletes on the court.
“We play as much as we can to help provide entertainment. We cheer and chant with different motives,” stated director of the band, Jason Arnold. “The band is ultimately very positive and about supporting our team above all else.”
With about 25 home games, the commitment to the groups is extreme and at times, can be enduring. Because cheer, dance and the pep band are not Division I sports, the members need to be willing to work around their own personal time to be a part of the programs.
“Unfortunately, we’ve lost people because of the time commitment part,” said spirit coordinator Marie Chaisson. “The ones who are most successful find that the busier they are, the better they are.”
Arnold also talked about the commitment to the program and the way it affects the members of the band.
“In many cases, the games are a welcome distraction, a distraction from studying, tests, books, turbos, clinicals,” said Arnold. “The students enjoy the opportunity to play an instrument.”
Whether they’re cheering from the sidelines, dancing during halftime, or chanting from the stands, the groups are some of Fairfield basketball’s biggest supporters.
“I can’t imagine the games without them,” said Chaisson. “If you’re into college athletics, there’s nothing better than going to a game and watching a spirit group and hearing that pep band in the back, I just love the energy it brings.”
The cheer team and pep band went as far as Albany, New York to bring the energy to the MAAC tournament this past month. During their spring break, these students traveled about three hours to support their team.
“I remember walking in on Friday night with my girls and seeing the women’s basketball coaches waving at me frantically because they were so excited that we made it to the game,” said Chaisson. “They were really hoping we’d be there and I was like ‘Of course we are, it’s what we do best.’”
Spending their Friday nights at games is a decision that these students are forced to make, but for them, it’s an easy decision.
“Being a part of the program along with the dance team girls and the pep band has been an amazing experience,” said Paterson. “I enjoyed working together as a Spirit Group to make the atmosphere at the games fun, lively and spirited.”