Wayland to host 20th cheerleading camp with NCA

Joe Provence gave up the role of cheerleader sponsor for Wayland Baptist University seven years ago. But something about the sport keeps him involved as director of the National Cheerleading Association's camp held each summer at Wayland.

"Being cheerleader sponsor was one of the greatest experiences for me," said Provence, who now serves as Director of Alumni Services. "Cheerleaders are usually your school's leaders - kids with personality and potential - and they're usually smart. I've seen kids that didn't have the confidence to walk across a room get into cheerleading and really build up their confidence."

On Monday, nearly 300 of such students on the high school and junior high level will gather on the Wayland campus for camp, the 20th such event since NCA began leading the instruction. According to Provence, 259 cheerleaders are slated to attend, with 45 adult sponsors and 19 mascots. The squads range in size from 4 to 17, with the average being 7-8 students.

"We have 15 NCA instructors that come in and do the camp itself, all the instruction," Provence explained.

Sessions throughout the camp - which runs through noon on Thursday - focus on various aspects of the sport: learning new cheers and dances, techniques, jumps, partner stunts and teamwork. Mascots will have separate classes to polish their own performances.

The NCA instructors hold special "custom coaching" sessions, Provence said, which allows squads to get individual feedback on their technique and personalized tips on improving. Each evening, squads are awarded ribbons and spirit sticks for their attitude and hard work during camp.

Instructors also chose students to tryout for All-American honors at the end of the week. Some squads might also be awarded a bid for a performance at national competition.

On Wayland's part, the university's own cheerleaders work much of the camp and are assigned as buddies to squads. They also throw a pizza party for campers, organize a talent show one evening and run any errands during the week. The university maintains a hospitality room for sponsors as well and pays trainers to be on call in case of injury.

Provence said that involvement by WBU students, as well as the different events planned, are what keeps schools coming back each year.

"Just like everything else at Wayland, the camp is a little more personal (than the ones at larger schools)," he said. "The students get more close attention."

Some of the proceeds from the camp go to Wayland's cheerleaders and to the housing office.