National Cheerleaders Association Staff, Erica Alpers

The National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) hosts the largest national cheerleading competition and is the original cheerleading association. Every year, lucky and talented applicants get to have the opportunity to work as a staff member and as of last year, UW Stout's Erica Alpers is one of them.

Name: Erica Alpers

Hometown: Eden Prairie, MN

Major: Health, Wellness, and Fitness

Year: Junior

HC: What did you have to do to apply for an NCA staff position?

EA: To apply for NCA Staff I had to fill out an application discussing my experience with cheerleading, coaching, working with kids, and personal goals I wanted to achieve through working with NCA. I then had to create a video showcasing a cheer, numerous stunts, jumps, and tumbling. Finally, I had to have three letters of recommendation.

HC: How competitive is the hiring process?

EA: The hiring process is very competitive. Applications throughout the entire country are sent in every year and the directors of each region have to review all applications, videos, and recommendation letters to determine if the applicants will help improve NCA, grow with NCA, and mesh well with our family.

HC: Did you have to go through any special training?

EA: Every year there is a Staff Meeting where all of the staff members throughout the region get together for a weekend and we all get tested on all of the material we are required to learn beforehand, we sit in classes and talk about the logistics of camp which consist of how to act/behave and how to effectively work with the campers to teach them the best way we can but still giving campers the best weekend of their summer.

HC: What exactly did you do as an NCA staff?

EA: I travel to all of the camps that I am scheduled to work at. I drove to camp locations throughout the central region of the United States. I worked camps in Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and Illinois. Some camps were a 2 hour drive and others were over 10 hours. I worked larger camps with 5-8 staff members with 10 to 16 teams and I worked smaller camps with 3 staff members where we had about 7 teams to work with. The other style of camps I worked at were private camps where I was usually teaching a squad one on one or with another staff member.

Throughout these camps we teach the campers cheers, chants, dances, jumps, stunts, and overall technique. We evaluate each team throughout their camp, play games with campers between classes, hold leadership classes for captains, and teach the young athletes how much impact they have on others and how to grow as individuals. Majority of the NCA Staff all agree that we would do it all for free too!

HC: What was the time commitment? Is it just in summer or do you work with them year round?

EA: Camps are typically in the summer and you usually only work the camps that fit best in your schedule. However, NCA as a company host numerous events year round that range from local competitions to National competitions. NCA also gives a list of staff members to local high schools for a resource if they are looking for judges for tryouts for their squads. All staff members are given the opportunity to work these events it just depends if you are willing to drive or have the time to work these events.

HC: What is your favorite part about being an NCA staff?

EA: My favorite part about being a part of NCA Staff is the effect you have on the campers. Being able to see the transformation of a camper/a whole squad from day 1 to the last day of camp (camps can be 1-4 days long) is the greatest thing I have experienced. Watching these campers grow into better athletes and more mature, kind team members is so great. The campers also admire the staff more than you can explain. Realizing that someone could impact a child’s life like that in only a few days is amazing. I have had campers ask to take pictures with me at camps, give me presents, and even cry when they have to say goodbye. I also love the family atmosphere that NCA has! I keep in touch with so many co-workers more than some of my own family! These are people I will invite to my wedding and stay in touch with even after our time with NCA ends!

HC: What kind of things have you taken out of being on staff?

EA: No matter what you do in life and where you go, there is always someone that looks up to you and sees you in a better light than you see yourself. So it is very important to consider how your actions will impact those admiring eyes.

HC: What kind of events did you get to attend or coach at?

EA: I got to work at 8 camps throughout the summer! I could have worked at other camps or events during the school year but a lot of these events are too far to drive by myself.

HC: What have you done with cheerleading previously?

EA: I started cheerleading my freshmen year of high school. I was the captain of our Varsity Fall Cheer and Varsity Basketball Cheer squads my senior year. My Junior year I joined a competitive All Star team and balanced being fully dedicated to that team and my high school teams. I was able to attend a National competition with my All Star team at Disney in Florida. I was a member of the UW-Stout Cheer and Stunt Team my freshmen and sophomore years of college. This past year I also joined an competitive All Star team in the cities that is for 18+.

HC: What do you have to say to people who say that cheerleading isn’t a sport?

EA: This is difficult. I do get defensive when people say it is not a sport but I think that people are extremely close minded about cheerleading, especially in the north. A lot of people picture girls waving pompons around and kicking their legs while spelling words. However there is much more to the sport than people know. Cheerleading started at the University of Minnesota as an all-male sport. Women did not start joining cheerleading until the draft of WWII. Now I have a question, is gymnastics a sport? Why yes of course it is! Cheerleading is a combination of gymnastics, dance, and strength. Cheerleading is a very competitive sport and the Cheerleading Worlds competition was just this past weekend. Yes, its true! Competitive cheerleading is worldwide. I will fight for cheer to be recognized as a sport! Go on YouTube and look up teams from the Worlds competition and then we can talk if you still doubt it.

HC: What is your main role in cheerleading?

EA: My main role is labeled a base or back base. (So I lift people in the air) I haven’t given being a top girl since my freshmen year at Stout. (I broke my ankle and had to get surgery because I got dropped at practice)

HC: What’s your favorite part about cheerleading?

EA: I like all of it! I love dancing, stunting, and cheering on a team.

HC: What’s your favorite stunt?

EA: I would have to say I love basket tosses. They definitely get the crowd’s attention and I think they are very fun. I also love sequent stunts. I love them because you connect a ton of different skills into one continuous stunt.

HC: Do you think it will always be a part of your life?

EA: Absolutely! I may not be working for NCA forever or be on a cheer team forever but I would love to be a coach at some point!

HC: Do you have a favorite cheerlebrity?

EA: My cheerlebrity is not a usual decision. I have a love for certain teams as a whole but I would have to say the best cheerlebrity is Lawrence Herkimer otherwise known as “Herkie”. He is the founder of the National Cheerleaders Association and created everything iconic to cheerleading. He created the pompons, spirit stick, the herkie jump, the very first cheer association, and more! Without him I wouldn’t have the best job on the planet so it is obvious as to why he is my favorite!

HC: Do you prefer competition or sideline cheer? Why?

EA: I actually enjoy both! They are not even comparable in my eyes. I love performing with a competitive team but I also love showing off to the crowd, getting the fans involved, and cheering on a football or basketball team! Both can be competitive too! There are sideline specific competitions and high school teams compete just like All Star.