Interviewing Kayla O’Niel

Interview Exercise from September 13th

Kayla has a passion for cheerleading, an activity that comes with more challenges than you may think.

She hates it when people stereotype her or her passion for cheering. She explains that what she does, and what she’s really loves is the athletic and gymnastics component than the pom-poms and chants many falsely associate with cheering. And despite how much UMass relies on cheering for marketing at all of its sporting events, Kayla explained that UMass appears to take what they do for granted. The school won’t support the program, so the cheerleaders have to clean the Mullins center after games for funding, and are required to cheer at every event.

“It’s like an un-paid job,” she explained.

When asked why she continues working so hard with such minimal support, she explained that it’s the thrill and excitement of competing nationally that has kept her so passionate.

Not only are there challenges to overcome in getting university support, it is also a physically challenging job. Currently, Kayla is taking a break from cheering and doing physical therapy for a damaged knee that had been worn down after 14 consecutive years of cheering. She wants to continue to compete in national competitions, but has to take her health into consideration.

Kayla is a Journalism and English double major, and is also taking classes in Education. She’s the type of person who plans a lot, and knows that once she finishes school in three years, she wants to go to graduate school and work in copyediting. I asked her if she thought she would return to cheerleading.

“Giving it up is really hard,” she explained, as it was literally a part of her daily activities for so long. In the absence of cheering, Kayla has spent her time focusing on academics.

“I’m taking five classes and double majoring, so that’s basically what I’m doing now.”

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