One of the newest additions to the Manhattan College cheerleading team is Matt Healey, a sophomore business major.
He said that he used to joke about joining the team because he had no experience at all but someone on the team persuaded him to try out. He was also enticed by the idea of being a part of the energy of cheering on the basketball teams.
“I ended up going to the tryouts,” he said, “and I had no idea how I was going to do it. It seemed like a great group of girls and I really wanted to do it because I had never been on a team before.”
Going into tryouts, he said he was apprehensive because of his aforementioned lack of experience. Tryouts proved to be challenging, but he wasn’t deterred.
“I said, ‘You know what? The way I can make this team is by impressing them with doing a ton of cartwheels in a row,’” he said. “So, I just did ten cartwheels in a row.”
When he found out he made the team he couldn’t believe it, but was excited to take on the season. His positions are base and stunter.
He said the season has gone well so far with learning the skill, techniques and forming new friendships.
“It’s a lot of work but it’s a good kind of work,” he said. “I feel very productive doing it and everybody is super supportive. That’s one of the best things I have to say about it. I’ve had to be taught from the ground up, but the whole team is so helpful.”
He admits he isn’t one to turn on ESPN in his dorm and scream at the TV but when he’s cheering on the basketball team he gets really passionate about it, especially since the team sits right on the sidelines. On top of all of this, he said he has made a great group of friends, a couple of which he hangs out with all the time.
The team practices twice a week, two hours per practice. Healy said he also takes time to practice on his own because he looks back at videos of himself to see where he can improve. Including schoolwork, this is a busy schedule. He said that being on the team has helped him with managing his time wisely.
“It’s a lot of making sure that I have everything done on time,” he said, “because I don’t have a lot of free time to just push things off. Time management is really essential. If I’m behind on learning something for cheer, I know I have to get it done, which means that I have to get all my schoolwork done because school comes first.”
Cheerleading has always been dominated by females, and there tends to be a stigma towards male cheerleaders. But Healey said he doesn’t sense that at Manhattan at all.
“When I’m at practice, I don’t feel different,” he said. “I’m held to the same standards, I’m still pushed to the limit, and I still push myself. I want to do different things. I want to show people that I can do this. I am the only guy on the team and I want to impress people. Don’t get me wrong, every time I walk out onto the court and there’s people standing there that I know, I’m like ‘Oh God, don’t mess up.’”
The support and praise that he said he receives also helps him with his progress and determination.
“People come up to me and say really positive things,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a big deal because of the reactions I’ve gotten. None of them have been negative. It’s a natural instinct to assume people are thinking a certain way but even though it’s out of the norm, most people think it’s cool or they really don’t care.”
Brittany Ponti, a freshman cheerleader, said that he is a great asset to the team.
“Matt is one of my best friends,” she said, “and it’s so nice having him on the team because of how dedicated and encouraging he is.”
Healey’s coach, Eileen Antonison, cheered when she attended Manhattan herself. A male cheerleader joined the team one year that she was here, and because of it, more male students came out and joined the following year.
“All it takes is one guy to come out and be really into it and show school spirit, and then other people will be inspired to join too,” she said. “Having Matt on the team opens up a lot of the stunts and he’s so great to have because he’s open to anything I ask him to do. He has great ability and he’s a real pleasure.”