With the UAAP Season 82 Cheerdance Competition (CDC) closing in, the DLSU Animo Squad is aiming to bounce back from last year’s disheartening finish. Overall team captain Andrew Pesebre, head cheerleader Ricia Deguito, and head coach Ramon Pagaduan IV remain optimistic as they pour out their hearts and efforts in preparing for their upcoming performance. 

Despite placing last in the standings and facing different challenges, the team believes that last season was a learning experience. This year, the Animo Squad will rely on gelling as a unit and will lean on their detailed, crucial preparations for the past months. With redemption in mind and encouraged further by the support of the Lasallian community, the team from Taft is determined to make their mark this year.

Beginning momentum

Head cheerleader Deguito expresses that although La Salle cheerdance had a discouraging outcome last Season 81, they have since started to train harder. Taking advantage of events inside campus like the Lasallian Personal Effectiveness Program (LPEP) and the Animo Rally, the Animo Squad used these opportunities as “training grounds” to practice and enhance their routines. The recurring schedule of the LPEP as a week-long event in September further helped the members familiarize themselves with the proper execution of difficult moves and stunts.

In addition, Deguito shares that the team won gold in the pom and pom-doubles divisions and the all-girls division in the National Cheerleading Championships held last March. The team leader sees such events as important progress for the benefit of the squad.

Prior to the start of the season, the team also had a hard time filling up their roster. However, through the aid of the University Chancellor, the squad was able to get the much needed help they were hoping for. Pagaduan shares that one of the significant changes this year is the number of scholarships provided for Animo Squad members, “We were given five slots for full scholarships, compliments of Br. Bernie Oca FSC, which will be vital in [the] recruitment of skilled gymnasts and cheerleaders.”

Moreover, the team has received increased recognition from the DLSU administrators this season. Overall team captain Pesebre mentions how Oca reached out to their team after a poor showing last season. “Mas hands on na siya ngayon sa team. Gusto niya kasi after our performance last season, he wanted to reach out and help us na [rin],” he shares.

(He’s more hands on with the team now. After our performance last season, he wanted to reach out and help us, too.)

Adapting to change

Having a rookie-laden team is not a common occurrence for the Animo Squad, though this was a challenge that they faced in Season 81, with first time jitters adding pressure on their players. “[In] our previous years there were mostly veterans [who competed], and there [were] only [a] few [who] go in for their first time to compete,” explains Deguito. This season, however, the Lasallian community will see a more diverse and experienced team take on the mats, since the rookies now have veterans to depend on. 

With a stronger lineup this time around, Pesebre is not willing to take any chances on teammates possibly sustaining injuries. Just like any other sport, cheerleading is also a risky physical activity as it includes flyers being thrown into the air with different tricks, lifters that require physical strength to carry their teammates, and a whole routine with various dynamic stunts. 

If they get injured, their players would need to acquire clearance from their physical therapists to continue training for the team. Because of this, they may miss out on several practice sessions. Such injuries are costly to the team’s routine, as Deguito shares, “If ever may kahit isang person lang ma-injure [sa amin], magaadjust talaga ‘yung whole team.”

(If even a single person gets injured, the whole team is forced to adjust.)

Key elements

For the Animo Squad, there is no such thing as an off-season. When they are not preparing for CDC, the squad would cheer and support other Lasallian sports varsity teams during their respective UAAP competitions. Aside from focusing on their own performance, the overall team captain also wants to be able to reach out and help their fellow Lasallian athletes. “For the past few seasons, iilan lang yung nakaka-hit ng goal. Since Animo Squad nga kami, dapat matulungan namin every athlete in every way possible para makamit [din] ‘yung goal—the championship,” Pesebre explains.

(For the past few seasons, only some sports teams hit their goals. Since we’re the Animo Squad, we should help every athlete in every way possible to be able to achieve the goal—the championship.)

In hopes of giving ample support to other Lasallian athletes as well as improving their standing in CDC Season 82, conditioning and going back to basics were two of the key elements the team prioritized during their training. Deguito shares that their head coach would always remind the squad about the importance of mastering the fundamentals first, “You can’t go to any advanced skill if your basics aren’t polished.”

Empowered for redemption

As the competition date slowly inches closer with each passing day, the team from Taft is working to capitalize on their remaining training days. Deguito affirms, “[The Lasallian community] can expect we’ll have something for them to be excited about. Try talaga namin na bawiin yung performance namin last season.” 

(We will really try to make up for our performance last season.)

Pesebre has a similar mindset as he explains, “It’s going to be redemption season talaga; we’re really maximizing [the] training days [left] to really put up a great show for the Lasallian community and the whole UAAP community as well. They have to watch out for La Salle.”

Deguito asks, however, for the Lasallian community to stand with their team until the end no matter the outcome of the CDC. As the head cheerleader expresses, “I hope the Lasallian community still embraces us even after good or bad [results in the] competition. We feel [that] we want to redeem ourselves, but at the end of the day, gusto lang naman namin maging one with the community sa goal.”

(At the end of the day, we just want to be one with the community toward a common goal.)

The DLSU Animo Squad is determined as ever to regain their confidence and fire up the UAAP Cheerdance Competition on Sunday, November 17, at the Mall of Asia Arena.

ERRATUM: In the previous version of this article, the National Cheerleading Championships was incorrectly stated as the National Cheerdance Competition. The LaSallian apologizes for the oversight.

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