2012-13 Spirit Team
Feb. 4, 2013
Article by Sandra Millers Younger
USD Magazine Spring 2013
Cheerleaders. The word triggers images of beautiful young women who dazzle sports fans with their intricate dance routines, eye-catching uniforms and gravity-defying stunts.
Not so 50 years ago at the University of San Diego, then a community of less than a thousand students, many of them nuns and seminarians who were divided into separate men's and women's campuses.
"We tried out in the men's cafeteria," says former USD Alumni Board president Delle Willett '64, who, as a sophomore in 1961-1962 won a spot on an early Toreros cheerleading squad. "It was very low key. One of the boys did a back flip. The rest of our routine was jumping, shaking our pompoms, cheers and chants."
The girls' uniforms were equally simple -- blue, knee-length pleated skirts, topped by heavy white sweaters. Still, Mother Frances Danz, then-president of the women's college summoned the young women to her office to personally inspect their attire.
That first squad of three women and three men marked the start of an ongoing tradition. Variously named -- cheer team, yell team, spirit team (and now including the university's dance team) -- these champions of school spirit have fired up Torero fans and athletes for generations.
Willett looks back fondly on her time as a cheerleader. "It was fun being in front of people at the games, getting everyone excited, going on road trips," she recalls.
The one-sleeved mini dresses and infectious dance routines
that characterize today's spirit team dancers would never have passed muster five decades ago. But even after half a century, cheering for the Toreros is still fun.
"It was really exciting right away," says sophomore communications major Alexis Swanstrom, a spirit team member last year who now cheers for the San Diego Chargers National Football League team. "And right away I made some of the greatest friends."
Last summer, Willett came up with the idea of organizing a spirit team alumni group to renew such friendships and enable former cheerleaders and dancers to boost school spirit once again.
"The people who are in front of others at games are well known; they have a higher profile and tend to be campus leaders," Willett explains. "So, if former spirit team members get involved with USD again and reach out to their classmates, it will help the university attract more alumni and more support, financially and otherwise. And the people who come back will be reconnected to friends, so everybody wins."
Willett, who chairs the Alumni Recognition Committee, found an enthusiastic planning partner in Amy Bodnar '06, herself a dance team alum who returned to Alcalá Park last July as the spirit team's new head coach. Bodnar saw advantages for the university and spirit alumni, as well as current team members.
"Dance team for me was the biggest part of my life at USD," she says. "I want today's members to know this isn't just a team they participate in now, but they're part of a network of alumni who have done this before."
Willett and Bodnar worked with the USD Alumni Association to compile a partial list of spirit grads and invite them back to campus during Homecoming 2012. About a dozen alumni -- plus family members -- attended the first annual spirit team reunion breakfast held last October. More have since re-engaged through social media.
By next year, Willett and Bodnar plan to comb through stacks of old yearbooks to identify and invite all former cheerleaders and dancers to re-engage with their alma mater.
"The main reason is the power of our social network," Willett says. "The people in the cheering business have the capacity to bring back people to campus, and we need to mobilize and use that power to help the university."
USD Softball Season Preview
Season starts February 12
USD travels to No. 9 UCLA Friday
Toreros Host Kentucky Saturday
USD looks to defend home court against No. 22 Kentucky
Toreros Host Pepperdine & LMU
USD returns home after four-game road trip
Toreros Team Up with PYBL
Men's Basketball hosts annual clinic for Challenged Division
Men's Tennis 2016
USD opens at home vs UC Irvine and UCSD Saturday
Preview of USD women's basketball WCC opener vs. BYU.
City Championship Highlights
Relive the Toreros' Upset over SDSU at Petco Park
Toreros to Host Hope International
The 9-1 Toreros will host Hope International in their final game before WCC play
Toreros Stun Aztecs at Petco
Postgame reaction and press conferences
Toreros Return Home
USD will host Bethesda before Sunday's City Championship at Petco Park
Men's Basketball Season Tickets
Starting as Low as $99
Pono Keni and Coach Lindsey talk about Saturday's Senior Day game against Butler
Coach Fisher and forward Maya Hood talk about Tuesday's home-opener against CSUN
Coach Smith and Brett Bailey preview the season opener at USC
Jonah Hodges and Dale Lindsey talk about Jonah's return and preview Davidson game
San Diego Fall Classic Preview
Coach Dagman previews the San Diego Fall Classic
USD's Women's Basketball team will start their season at Nevada this weekend
USD Men's Basketball - The Origins (1955-1973)
A Glance at the Beginnings of Torero Hoops
Coach Lindsey and Jeff Starr preview Campbell
Coach Lindsey and Jereke Armstrong talk about the season so far
WCC Media Day
Behind the scenes with Men's and Women's Basketball at WCC media day
Dale Lindsey and Anthony Lawrence on USD's 45-14 win
Anthony Lawrence and Coach Lindsey preview game vs. Warner
Torero Community Service
USD Athletics helps out at Father Joe's Village in downtown San Diego
Men's Basketball Camp Update
Kok and Carter talk about the upcoming season
Toreros host Bulldogs for Homecoming game
Toreros look for 4th straight win
Pack the Stadium Night
ITA All-American's Preview
Petronijevic, Angus, & Vittek Prepare
USD Looks to Extend Home Win Streak
Toreros First True Road Game of 2015
CSUN and UCSB Preview
Toreros Look to Extend Win Streak
Aztec Invite Recap
Both Squads Finish Second
Toreros Take on Cross-town Rival
Highlights from 45-21 win
2015 Home Opener
Previewing Western New Mexico
Volleyball Tournament Preview
A preview of the USD Tournament
Men's Soccer Season Opener
Previewing No. 16 Cal
Training Camp Update
Coach Lindsey Recaps the First Two Weeks
2015 WSOC Preview
A brief preview of the 2015 Toreros.