Grit and hard work come naturally to the junior cheer captain Abdallah Mahmoud, but stereotypes and social stigma almost kept him away from competitive cheer.
“I came from wrestling and football; I always thought cheerleading was like, cheer the crowd on and that’s it,” Mahmoud said. “You never think of touching the sport.”
Mahmoud said he joined the cheerleading team his freshman year and has seen the number of men jump to 12 members this season. The increase was encouraging, if not surprising for assistant coach Reuben Rivera.
“In college, there are actually more guys in cheerleading than girls, and most schools are like that,” said Rivera. “The ratio is almost two guys to one girl.”
Zachary Ramos, a sophomore entering his second year on the team, saw cheer as an opportunity to learn values, especially because of its coeducational aspect.
“You’re never going to work with all males or all females,” Ramos said. “You have to learn how to work with the opposite gender.”
Mahmoud said he enjoyed the camaraderie, understanding, and closeness between teammates, which promotes competition within the team.
“It’s a real eye opener,” Mahmoud said. “I’ve seen some girls who are complete monsters. They show up the guys all the time.”
Rivera said that currently the team is still building their skills for nationals in Daytona, Florida this April. He said he remained optimistic about the team’s outlook and hoped to see the school’s support grow along with the team.
“I think the program here at San Francisco State is growing. I’ve seen it in the past and it’s mostly been girls,” Rivera said. “Now that they’re bringing more guys, I think it’s going to open it up and drop the stereotype.”
Many men have been ridiculed for their role in the sport of competitive cheer, according to Ramos, but he said he persisted, undeterred and optimistic.
“You just flip it around and shove it in their face,” Ramos said. “You show them what you can do and hopefully you can show them your talent. If anything you can use that to your advantage.”
Junior cheerleader Karla Lopez has been on the team since her freshman year and has seen how the team has benefitted with an increase of male teammates.
“It’s taken away the typical stereotype of cheerleading being just girls doing basic cheering,” she said. “It has given us the opportunity to practice more elite stunts and attract a larger audience.”
Rivera said he emphasizes strength of character in the cheer squad.
“I think a cheerleader is someone who leads by example no matter what the situation is,” Rivera said. “Cheerleaders help out whenever they can, they support and they’re team leaders.