Preparing for Nationals - Jay Hollman Blog

Jan. 17, 2014

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ORLANDO, Fla. ( - As one of the nation's top spirit squads once again gets ready for Nationals this weekend at ESPN's Wide World of Sports, UCF freshman cheerleader Jay Hollman provides Knights fans with a behind-the-scenes look at what it's like preparing for the most exciting weekend of the season with his daily blog entries.

By: Jay Hollman

Monday, January 13
With UCA Nationals only being a few days away and classes just now starting back up for the Spring Semester, our time management skills are a big factor this week. Tonight was our Alumni practice; this is where the alumni that have been a part of the UCF Cheerleading program in the past come to watch the routine that we are going to perform this weekend. I was excited for this practice because it gave us an opportunity to be critiqued by former UCF Cheerleaders. As we went into this practice, we were completely focused and ready to show the alumni what we've worked so hard for. We ran the routine full-out with the incentive from our coach, Linda Gooch, that if we hit the routine then we would NOT have practice on Tuesday. We hit the routine the first time and got great feedback from the alumni. We, as a team, knew we hit the routine as far as skills staying in the air but felt that we could do a lot better, so we took a break and got set to do it again.

The next time we went full-out, it didn't go the way we wanted it to but we used this as a chance to 'turn the page' and make the next part of the routine better than the beginning. After this, we sat down to watch and analyze what went wrong in that routine. After watching this routine, Coach Gooch talked to us about “imposing our will on the routine”. She told us, "Nothing is going to be perfect in the routine, but it gives you the opportunity to find a new way to save the skill. It's your body, you control it. Don't let it control you!" This got the team ready to run the routine one last time! Not only did we hit this routine, we hit it with a purpose the way our coaches have been preaching to us! I left practice with the biggest smile on my face knowing that we would be ready for anything this routine threw at us!

Tuesday, January 14

After hitting the routine the night before, we were given the day off. This gave me the opportunity to relax and give my body a rest. Not having class today allowed me to watch the routine over and over again and find the little things throughout the routine that I can fix to make my parts of the routine better. This day off also gave me the chance to pack, since we have so much going on the rest of the week. This was definitely a much needed break.

Wednesday, January 15

Today was a big day for the team! Every year we perform at an Orlando Magic's game during halftime. This gives us another opportunity to perform our routine in front of a number of people just like we will be facing at Nationals.

Walking into the arena for the first time was breathtaking. It has always been my dream to perform at a NBA Basketball game, but today we came for a "business visit". As we warmed-up, our adrenaline kept building and building. When we walked onto the mat with confidence on our faces, we were focused to complete what we came to do... 'HIT' the routine! While on the floor, all I could focus on was the task at hand. As we took one skill at a time, I enjoyed each moment I was in front of that crowd. Unfortunately, we did not hit the routine, it still gave us an opportunity to get the jitters out before this weekend. This was an unbelievable experience and I am so blessed to have had the chance to experience this dream come true.

Thursday, January 16

Today we met at the gym to stretch and warm-up before we headed to Wide World of Sports to get acclimated with the arena and where we would be competing this weekend. We did our regular ten minute warm-up that we have been training for and then took a five minute break.

After the five minute break, we got set to run the routine full-out! It felt amazing to get a "hit" on the floor in front of many other teams in the warm-up room! Being there today allowed us to get an idea of what to expect throughout the weekend. Upon walking out of the HP Field-house to return back home, gave me a sense of achievement in knowing that we came in and completed what we came to do.

As we arrived back to campus, the rest of the team met up with us for dinner and discussed how excited everyone was for the weekend and what the goals were that need to be executed to have a successful weekend! We toped things off with pizza and an amazing cake made by team member Ashley Thompson. This day overall was very fun and productive!

Friday, January 17

This was a very busy, but eventful day! We started out by hosting our annual practice inviting Tennessee, Ohio State, MIssissippi State, LSU, Iowa Western and George Mason to join us on our campus. This practice was an amazing experience. We had a chance to meet a lot of new people from different teams.

After wrapping up this group practice, we headed off to Disney to check into our rooms and get ready to support our teammates in the 2014 UCA Coed Partner Stunt Competition. I was so excited to get the opportunity to watch this prestigious competition and cheer on Jacob Serre and Sarah Gralton. On the way to the hotels, the guys van was jamming out to some 'pump up music' and sang along to our favorite Disney tune, "Make a Man Out of You" from Mulan.

So, our teammates competing in partner stunt placed 6th in the country. We are very proud of the performance they put out on the floor. They represented the name on their chest to the best of their ability. After the conclusion of our festivities for the day, we went back to the hotel room, ate dinner, and headed to bed to get ready for an even more eventful semi-finals day tomorrow! 

Saturday, January 18

We woke up today and had a luxurious breakfast at Café Linda (Coach Linda Gooch's room) where she had cereal, bagels, fruit and more to hold us over until our big lunch at Golden Corral. While at lunch, most of the talk that went around was "this does not feel like the semi-finals for UCA Nationals". It all seemed a little surreal. 

Back at the Disney All-Star hotel we relaxed waiting for the time to depart for our warmup. Our coaches arranged for us to warm up at a local middle school. In the van on the way there, you could feel the mood changing from a "relaxation and joking around" mood to the "focused and ready to go" mood.

Once inside the gym we were welcomed by the middle school cheerleaders and coaches. They provided us with snacks, Gatorades and fruits for us to have while getting ready for the competition and had created a huge welcome banner to make us feel at home. We had an awesome warm-up and got ready to head to ESPN's Wide World of Sports to do our official ten minute warm-up before performing in Semi-Finals.

As we waited to be called into the warm-up area, the girls and guys of the team stood back-to-back, closed our eyes and listened to the music while visualising ourselves hitting the routine perfect on the floor. Coach Gooch has always preached to us, "getting a mental hit is just like getting a physical one, because your mind doesn't know the difference." So with that being said, we were prepared to get a hit on the mat.

After going through our official warm-up, we stood waiting to be called on the mat. All I can remember now is walking onto the mat nervous and walking off the mat happy. Everything else in between was a blur. We came off the floor excited that we got a hit and as we watched the video being played back stage, you could feel the excitement and energy that everyone had about the routine. We were ecstatic with this performance but knew we could do better in Finals on Sunday.

Sunday, January 19


This morning we woke up, had breakfast and then proceeded to get ready for our first performance of the day. This performance was for the World University Championship (competing against all different countries) and we decided to use this as an opportunity to prepare and get the jitters out before Finals later tonight. We went to warm-ups and I realized that I had left my uniform top at the hotel, so I was kind of scared to tell Coach Gooch. Luckily I was able to borrow injured teammate Sam DiJune 's top. Although we were not perfect in this routine, it still gave us an opportunity to figure out what we needed to fix before this evening. We ended up winning this competition with a fall on one of stunt sequences.

Finding out that we won the World University Championship, it got the team hyped up and ready to compete in Finals. We went into this last performance with no doubt in our mind that we were going to hit. As we prepared for this opportunity, I started to make life-long memories that I would remember and would be able to talk to my kids about one day. We are standing backstage getting ready to go on the mat. Olympic Gymnast, Nastia Luikin on stage getting the crowd ready for the division Finals that everyone has been waiting 365 days for... D1A Coed.

We were the first team in the division and were ready to set the standards high for all the other competitors to try and reach. We were so excited to go out that we ran out before we were announced. This was by far one of the funniest moments of my Cheerleading career. After running out to earlier, we returned backstage anxiously awaiting our name to be called. You could here the fans chanting our name, "U-C-F" ... "U-C-F" gradually getting louder. Then, finally we were called onto the mat ready to fight like a Knight... After finishing the routine, the crowd erupted in screams, cheers and happiness. We then knew, it was all left up to the judges.

At awards, we found out that we were the #2 team in the nation but the best part of the entire weekend was hitting our routine.

Reload this page at the end of each day this week as Jay will continue to submit daily blogs all the way through the competition on Saturday and Sunday.



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