Before the NCAA Tournament begin, We Cover Cheer interviewed Kelli Rappard about her team and the upcoming NCAA tournament!
1. How long have you been the coach for the Wichita State Shockers Cheer team?
I'm finishing up my 6th year of coaching at WSU.
2. Tell us a little bit about your cheer background.
I started gymnastics and acrobatics at 2 years old and I guess it just grew from there... I cheered for little league football teams (my brother was on them), then in high school and continued on to the college level. When I was in college, we were a competitive team (it was the first time I had competed in cheer) and I really liked it.
During college I started working for Universal Cheerleaders Association (UCA) and taught summer camps throughout the nation. After a few years of being an instructor, I was appointed to the Head Instructor of Kansas position and was the leader for most of the Kansas camps. I worked for UCA for 13 years... during that time I was sent across the nation, internationally, and had the opportunity to judge at the State, Regional, National, and World levels.
3. What is your favorite thing about coaching cheer?
Working with new athletes and teaching them the skills to become more elite. I also really like teaching the traditions of WSU and what it means to be a Shocker!
4. What is the atmosphere like in Charles Koch Arena for Shockers home basketball games? What are some of the things your team does to make the atmosphere even better?
The games these past few years are CRAZY! The crowd is so loud and excited it becomes deafening at times. Our crowd enjoys good basketball; they are also not afraid to call out a ref or a team for bad calls or bad plays. We have several traditional cheers that the crowd will yell with us; as well as band chants and dances. Our rule of thumb is that there should never be girls on the ground during a timeout... we stunt and tumble to keep the interest during this time. At least whenever we're not helping with marketing and promotions, which are whole new experiences upon themselves.
5. Every year the Shockers are a quality team, but this year being undefeated in regular season play, how has cheering this year been versus previous years?
It really hasn't changed what we do so much as it's changed the feeling in Wichita. We are usually considered the "little brother" of other D1 schools in Kansas... even while walking across campus you'd see people in KU or KSU clothing... Now, everywhere you look it's black and yellow! Stores have painted their windows, decals are on cars, and Wu (our mascot) is everywhere.
6. Playing in the NCAA tournament is very exciting for any team and the spirit squads share that excitement. How does preparing for the NCAA tournament different than any other game?
The timeouts are usually longer so we have to plan more organized things to do for entertainment of the crowd. Also, there’s hardly ever a warm-up area in the host arenas so that makes being safe a little interesting sometimes. The biggest difference is that it's on a national media level at all times... we never know when the camera is going to pan to the cheerleaders for a shot, someone will post to social media about the cheerleaders (good or bad) and we have no control over what people say.
7. What have been some of the highlights of the year for your team been?
Other than all the excitement surrounding games, we've really come together in the past few years as a competitive team again. We have always ranked 4th or 5th in the nation at UCA competitions, but this year we placed 3rd in the nation and 10th in the World Competitions. We also had a partner stunt couple place 12th and our mascot took home 4th.
It's always a highlight to cheer in front of 10,506 at CKA though... there's nothing that can beat that many people cheering for the Shockers for 40 minutes of game time.
8. What are some of the goals you set for your team this year? How did you and your teamwork to achieve them?
One of our goals was to place in the top 3 of the nation at our competition (next year we're gunning for #1) and we managed to accomplish that! Other goals included getting new mats for the team (check) and raising more than $10,000 for our budget (we are so close!).
Thank you to Kelli for her time and interview with We Cover Cheer!
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