OPSU proud to add competitive cheer as new NAIA sport

OPSU Athletics
Justine Gaskamp, Sports Information Director

GOODWELL — As the Aggies wrap up a successful first year of competition in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) as members of the Sooner Athletic Conference (SAC), Panhandle State is proud to announce the addition of a new program that will compete alongside the established ten-sport family of Aggie Athletics.

Competitive Cheer is now offered at Panhandle State as a supported program which will follow the same recruiting, academic and eligibility standards as the other ten Aggie sports. Student athletes recruited for the cheer team will now be afforded the same opportunities as the other competitive sports, including Scholar-Athlete and All-American honors, and the ability to compete on a regional and national level. The NAIA is currently the only collegiate athletics association to offer a national championship in competitive cheer, and recently held the 2nd annual NAIA Competitive Cheer & Dance National Championships at Oklahoma City University in March. OCU is currently one of five SAC member schools to offer competitive cheer, along with Wayland Baptist, Texas Wesleyan, Southwestern Christian and now, Oklahoma Panhandle State.

With the dawn of a new program comes the hire of a new coach, and the athletic administration could not be happier to have added Alyssa Freeman as the Head Cheer Coach for Panhandle State. Freeman brings a rich knowledge and deep passion for cheerleading to the table and instantly impressed those on the hiring committee with her professionalism and enthusiasm. A native of Midlothian, Texas, she comes to Panhandle from Cumberland University in Tennessee where she served as an intern assistant coach for the past year. Freeman cheered throughout her high school and college careers and believes that her strong college and competitive cheer background can help bring a new level of experience, knowledge, and transformation to the OPSU Cheer Team program.

“I want to create a great game day environment for all of those that attend any and all Aggie sporting events,” Freeman said. “I want to also create a strong competitive cheerleading program that will provide many male and female student-athletes the experience to compete at the collegiate level.

“I enjoy bringing in community interaction and involvement, starting with mini, junior and high school cheer camps. I am a firm believer that community involvement builds not only character and leadership, but new relationships that can better both the school and surrounding towns of OPSU. I have had a great deal of success coaching at all levels of competitive and sideline cheerleading, and think I will be a great asset to OPSU and the future of the Aggie Competitive Cheer Team.”

Panhandle State will still provide a great game day atmosphere during the sport seasons with a rejuvenated sideline squad, but will now look to increase their numbers and incorporate the competitive aspect into the existing program. Freeman feels that with the support from the athletic teams, administration, school and community the Aggie Cheer Team will be a growing, successful program that people will want to be a part of.” Proud to have trained athletes of all skill sets, including those completely new to cheerleading, stunting and tumbling, Freeman requires two things of her athletes: first, the desire to learn and second, the ability to be coached. She quotes one of her team mottos, “You will never know your limits unless you push yourself to them.”

Jumping right into action, Coach Freeman has already scheduled Co-ed Cheer Team Tryouts for May 22-23. The open tryout sessions are admissible to students currently enrolled at OPSU, or recent high school graduates looking to attend Panhandle State in the fall. There are no prerequisites for skills, and Freeman hopes to see both male and female candidates in attendance. Both days will run from 9 a.m. – approximately 1 p.m. with Tuesday’s focus being learning the material and practicing as a group; Wednesday will include a brief practice followed by tryouts. All participants are required to present proof of insurance and complete a liability release waiver prior to taking part in any tryout activities. Interested parties may contact Head Coach Alyssa Freeman at [email protected] More information will be posted online at opsuaggies.com as the date approaches.