I’m the only male cheerleader at my uni
‘I’ve had some guys pull faces and run their mouths but to be honest, I don’t care’
Can you imagine being the only male cheerleader at your uni?
Ben Franklin is.
This year, for the first time, Southampton Vixens opened up tryouts to guys as well as girls, and the Law second year made the cut.
Ben had no previous cheerleading experience, having only ever seen the sport in bad American TV and films.
He told us: “I’ve always been a popular, pretty girl on the inside.
“A friend of mine who was already on the team knew I wanted to try out and sent me a message saying the Vixens were thinking of going Co-ed and I knew I had to try out.”
Racked with nerves during the tryout, he was taught a few basic skills, such as a prep (basic lift) load in, which he had to perform in a group in front of the coaches.
Having made the team, a male cheerleading kit had to be tailormade for him in the run up to competitions. Despite a few teething problems with sizing issues, Ben loves the kit and will be wearing it everywhere when the right size is delivered.
He said: “Being the only male Vixen is great. So many people are so surprised, but I love it – I’m a massive attention seeker (sorry ‘bout it) and I love that I got to be the first.
“It also means I got to know everyone on the team really quickly because they all knew who I was, but I honestly still don’t know some girls’ names because I had so many to learn at once.”
With the three Vixen squads comprising of approximately 100 girls, it’s not surprising that he struggled. Ben settled in to the team quickly.
“Luckily I didn’t face any adversity,” he said.
“Most people, being 20ish years old, of typical intelligence and aware that they live in the year 2015, can see beyond gender stereotypes and my sexuality and see that I just love the sport.
“I’ve had some guys pull faces and run their mouths but to be honest, I don’t care – I’m loving life and their negativity isn’t welcome in my party.”
Ben said the team’s spirit and the girls themselves are why he loves Vixens. Having recently won first place with his level 3 co-ed stunt group at ICC Southerns, he noted that his stunt group was everything to him, but he’s also fond of the Game Day and Competition girls.
He said: “They are some of the funniest and most dedicated people I know, and the competition girls have been so wonderful and accommodating and they all make me feel like I’m part of something much bigger than myself.
“It’s the first time I’ve been part of any kind of team, and now I know why so many people love team sports. I genuinely love the Vixen girls, in both a fond friendly way and a loyal, protective way.
Of course, being on the Game Day squad as well as Comp squad, Ben cheers for the American Football team alongside the girls.
He said: “It’s cold, wet, long, and incredible.
“If you get stuck into the game the time passes, you don’t notice the cold and you feel for the team – their wins makes you proud, their losses make you feel for them, and you end up screaming your lungs out on the side of the pitch because you so badly want to see their hard work and training pay off.”
Ben loves the social side of the club as well.
“These girls could drink most of the laddiest sports teams under the table”, he said.
“I’ve had an incredible time on every single social. They’re messy and fabulous and the gossip the next day is always incredible.
“The social secs pour so much into getting everyone to have a good time. Honestly, they could make a bunch of pensioners feel young and reckless again…but what happens on socials stays on socials I’m afraid.”
Training so often with so many girls means that Ben has an insight into girl-world that other guys can only dream of, and he noted that he has definitely become more aware of just how much some guys’ shitty behaviour can upset them.
What would Ben say to any boys considering trying out next year?
“Don’t let stereotypes or stigma hold you back. Remind the haters that stunting is literally weightlifting people, jumps are like extreme squats, tumbling is bloody difficult and the dance is so much fun.
“Seriously, lifting the girls above your head dozens of times each session gives you huge arms and broad shoulders. Just get stuck in and get passionate about your sport would be my advice.
“Just don’t try to come for my position… I’m totally kidding… but seriously.”