“Hellcats” Cram Session: Is It Kosher To Date Another Member Of Your Squad?

Bust out your pom-poms, ‘cause tonight is “Hellcats” night! Since The Frisky’s own Kate Torgovnick happens to be an expert on college cheerleading—after all, the show is based on her book CHEER!: Inside the Secret World of College Cheerleaders—every Wednesday we have her sound off on how the show stacks up to reality.

At the end of last week’s “Hellcats,” Marti and Lewis finally kissed. Tonight, it looks like they will have some pretty intense makeout sessions. Interestingly, Marti isn’t the first member of his squad that Lewis has dated—he also has a past with squad mean girl Alice.

So, are college cheerleading squads miniature dating services?Cheerleading is perhaps the only college sport where men and women compete together, on the same team. And nearly every guy cheerleader gives the same reason for how they got into cheerleading: for a girl. And yet, it’s much less common than you’d think for two members of the same squad to date. In my book, I followed two co-ed college cheerleading squads for a year—one team had 30 members and the other had 20. Out of both of these squads, there were only two couples.

Why? The relationship between men and women on cheerleading squads is much more big brother/little sister than it is flirty. Not to mention that in-dating is discouraged because it creates drama. (One time, I witnessed a fight between one of those aforementioned couples. Let’s just say it got nasty.) Cheerleaders look at dating a member of their squad like most people view dating someone you work closely with. You can do it—but you run the risk of it exploding in your face if things don’t work out. To them, the job comes first.

That said, college cheerleaders do tend to date other college cheerleaders. As one woman in my book explained, “When I date normal people, I can see their eyes glazing over. Ninety percent of what I talk about is cheerleading. I’m obsessed. It’s boring to me to talk to normal people.” The key: find a potential partner on another squad. Most college cheerleaders who are in relationships have a boyfriend or girlfriend who is a cheerleader at another school.

Another interesting fact: cheerleading teammates who do date often stay together for the long haul. Others get together after they graduate. At Stephen F. Austin University, for example, there had been five cheer alumni weddings in teammates’ recent memory. I wonder if Match.com can boast that kind of success rate.