The deafening drums, orchestrated chants, and choreographed dance routines are among the common sights and sounds Lasallians would normally experience in the games either at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum or at the Mall of Asia Arena thanks to the DLSU Animo Squad.
But underneath those seamless drumbeats and infectious smiles are bruised muscles and sore throats from countless hours of practice and constant repetition. Apart from this, each member of the Animo Squad has had to juggle attending class and doing schoolwork as part of the “student” aspect of their lives.
The LaSallian goes behind the scenes with co-captains Eileen Shi (IV, PSM-ADV) and Rod Arceo (III, CS-NE) to ask them about their lives as Animo Squad members, what got them started in cheer dance, and how they go about with the daily grind.
When asked why he wanted to join the Animo Squad, Arceo recalls the fateful day when the squad visited his high school, De La Salle Zobel. Having participated in cheer dance competitions for five years, it was during that shared training session with the team that led him to continue his passion in college. Now a junior in DLSU, the Computer Science major hopes to emulate the hard work and dedication shown by the Animo Squad that inspired him to pursue the same path as his peers.
Meanwhile, being part of the Animo Squad wasn’t quite as set for team captain Shi. In her high school days in Immaculate Conception Academy, the LIA-COM major was part of her school’s hip-hop dance troupe. Entering college, she wanted to learn something new, and it was then when she decided to give cheer dance a try as a freshman. Now, she is one of the squad’s leaders, still donning the Green-and-White uniform even in her senior year.
During game days
A normal day for an Animo Squad member consists of going to school in the morning, attending UAAP games in the afternoon, and having regular trainings at night. In line with this, each member must comply with the protocol required by the Office of Sports Development (OSD) in securing excused absences whenever they would need to cut class to cheer for the different sports.
Shi shares that she adjusted her class schedule to compliment the evening training schedule. This meant classes in the afternoon, training in the evening, and finally, sleep in the morning. Likewise, Arceo mentions that when it comes to televised basketball games, the squad must leave school at least three hours prior in order to prepare for the halftime routine and rehearse the school cheers. After the game, the team would hold a meeting to discuss what in the routine could be improved on, evaluate their overall performance, and give pointers for the succeeding events.
Unlike most athletes who have off-seasons after they’ve competed in the UAAP, the Animo Squad competes in a series of competitions that span the entire year. Along with their own busy class schedules, the squad’s daily practices start at five in the afternoon. Besides this already rigorous schedule, members are also expected to go to as many UAAP games as they can to cheer their fellow DLSU athletes on. Shi also explains that the Animo Squad is divided into two teams that join cheer dance competitions, namely the all-girls and the mixed groups, with each team training and preparing for their respective events.
More than a squad
When asked if being in the squad affected his studies, Arceo admitted, “Being an athlete affected my studies positively. What you learn is discipline, to go beyond the norm.”
Meanwhile, Shi attested that it is up to each member of the squad to determine how they will manage their time, especially for their studies.
“It does [affect your studies], but studies is a priority for me,” she emphasized.
Given that all members come from different courses and colleges, they would help each other out in choosing what classes to take and give tips in catching up with schoolwork.
“[As a group], we look out for each other,” Arceo described.
On the other hand, Shi saw that being a part of the squad made her a better person. “It has taught me to be a fighter,” she said.
Although it is cliché, Arceo would consider the Animo Squad his family. He would go on to explain that what members learn extends beyond the confines of the classroom, adding that they take care of each other.
Behind all of this work, he said that life in the Animo Squad is not just about trainings. Bonding as a group is also important to him. These times of relaxation include eating and talking together. He added that these moments don’t just relax their bodies after a long day of work; they also serve as a tool for the squad to develop good chemistry.
“Outside of training, nandyan yun, talagang nabubuild yung network,” he stated.
The Animo Squad plays a big role in the University’s pride and culture. Amidst the challenges and difficulties that come the way, Shi, Arceo, and the rest of the squad have continued to overcome these adversities with dedication and commitment. As in every sense as their moniker suggests, the DLSU Animo Squad will go on spirited, fighting with every breath in them to rally their school to victory.