LU alumni cheerleaders get ready for homecoming reunion
Behind every good football team is a great cheerleading squad.
Social workers, gymnastics coaches, medical doctors, and a university president are among the men and women who have cheered for the Lamar Cardinals – some of whom have lived as far away as Edinburgh, Scotland, while others still reside here in Beaumont. But when the Lamar University alumni cheerleaders reunite at this year’s homecoming game on Oct. 22, they will join together once again to do what they all love to do: cheer for Lamar.
For C.H. Colvin, who earned his bachelor of psychology in 1989, cheering at Lamar changed his career path completely.
“I was going to school to be a psychologist,” said Colvin, who has been the gymnastics coach for the Beaumont school district for 13 years.
“Without cheering at Lamar, none of this would have ever happened – cheerleading helped me in pursuing my career.
Colvin, who played football in high school, said it all started with “street tumbling” his senior year.
“Back when MTV was coming out, my friends in high school were all into break dancing,” he said. “We would see guys doing flips and back tucks on the videos, and we all went out into the yard and started doing it. Once I got into college, Lamar at one point offered a gymnastics class and a couple of the girls that I knew were taking it, so I thought okay, girls, gymnastics, plus a class where I get to learn how to do what I want to do, flip and tumble. It was a no-brainer.”
It was in his second semester Colvin discovered that he wanted to try cheerleading.
“We were sitting up in the stands at a basketball game, and they had a time-out or a half time, and these guys start tumbling across the floor. I looked over at my buddy and said ‘Man, one day I’d like to do that. That looks like fun.’ And, within a year and a half, I was the one on the floor doin’ the tumbling.”
Cheerleading has come a long way since beginning in the early 1900s; what began as an all-male activity for early American college football fans is now a competitive, co-ed sport comprised of athletes who can execute advanced floor gymnastics and formations.
“It’s just amazing what they’re doing these days,” said Colvin. “Cheerleading is really about leading the crowd, but it’s also about performing for the crowd. People like to see people flip – and when there’s lull time in the game, that’s when the cheerleaders should be leading and entertaining the crowd.”
For Shirley Woodell Coffman and Bobby Marks, entertaining the crowd was up to their team of six cheerleaders back in 1956, when home football games were in the South Park High School stadium and Lamar’s school colors were red, white and blue.
“We were so cute in our red, white and blue, and our skirts were down below our knees,” said Coffman, a Beaumont High School graduate who currently resides in Pearland. The girls wore dark royal blue felt skirts and the men matched with blue slacks, and all wore white letter sweaters with a red cardinal on the back.
“We were really proud of those sweaters. They were the heaviest, most gorgeous things you’ve ever looked at,” she said, recalling her first time cheering in her beloved sweater at an away game in Nacogdoches.
“We wore those sweaters, and we went to that game, and we cheered, and we cheered, and we cheered; and I want you to know that little old blouse underneath that beautiful heavy sweater was to be rung out. I just remember thinking ‘I may die before this game ends but I’m gonna keep on smiling and I’m gonna keep on cheering.’”
Marks, who served from 1995 until 2001 as president of Sam Houston State University, said his memories at Lamar have followed him into his career in education.
“We were a close-knit group. We worked hard, but had a lot of fun together,” he said. “Having served as a cheerleader prepared me for being at ease before large audiences, which my career demanded. It also taught me the importance of a team approach to projects.”
Alumna cheerleader Tondelyn Johnson, who graduated from Lamar in 1999, said her cheerleading memories have helped in her career in education as well. Before becoming the school principal at St. Peter the Apostle Catholic School in Houston, Johnson served as a cheerleading sponsor for five years.
“I can always think back to the days of cheering at Lamar and use the memories to impact the current cheerleaders and help bring the team together. I think back on how we handled problems and disagreements as a team,” said Johnson, who looks forward to meeting new cheerleaders and seeing her fellow teammates at the reunion. “We were like family.”
Her current family also treasures memories from Johnson’s cheerleading days.
“One of my most fond memories would have to be cheering for my boyfriend at that time, who is now my husband, Curley Johnson. He played basketball at Lamar,” said Johnson, adding that their daughter Carrigan wears her father’s number in sports, 15.
Also attending the Lamar alumni cheerleader reunion are former Lamar cheerleaders Vincent Thompson and Kristyn Henderson, both of whom went on to pursue careers in cheerleading. Thompson, a Beaumont native who currently resides in Columbia, Mo., worked as the director of curriculum and staff for the International Cheerleading Foundation, and Henderson, native of Lumberton, is the current cheer and mascot coordinator at Lamar.
“ I am so excited to get back home and see many of my friends from my LU days. The thought of being able to reconnect and relive the ‘good ole days’ in person is so exciting – it will be fun to relive the wonderful memories of cheering for LU football,” said Thompson, who graduated from Lamar in 1985. “Cheerleading at Lamar gave me the opportunity to develop some quality leadership skills and become more confident in myself. The opportunities I had to be in leadership positions while cheering at Lamar have helped me to obtain leadership positions in my professional life. It all started at LU!”
Henderson said members of the Lamar Cheerleading Team are excited to meet and work with former cheerleaders, some of whom will return to the field for an alumni cheerleader performance at the game.
“Once a cheerleader, always a cheerleader,” said Henderson, Lamar class of 2007 who also plans to perform as an alumna alongside her squad. “They are extremely excited. We have a girl on the team whose mom was a very well-known cheerleader at Lamar and almost all of our current cheerleaders know a few of the alumni already. There are a lot of strong bonds and relationships that will help make this reunion very special.”
Beginning at 10 a.m., former cheerleaders who plan to perform on the field are required to attend mandatory practice in the Health & Human Performance Complex (formerly the Women’s Gym), followed by a cookout lunch at 11:30 a.m. at the McDonald Gym. At 12:40 p.m., all cheerleaders, past and present, will join the football team in front of the Setzer Center and begin the march across campus in time for “Meet Me at the Bridge” at 1 p.m.
The all-alumni tailgate party will be underway in the parking lot directly in front of the athletic complex at Provost Umphrey Stadium until the game begins at 3 p.m.
Registration deadline for the Lamar alumni cheerleader reunion is Friday, Oct. 7. To register or for more information, contact the alumni office at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (409) 880-8922.