“Hellcats” Cram Session: Are Cheerleaders Hazed?

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.

For the past few weeks, it’s seemed like Marti has been welcomed with open arms into the Hellcats crew. But now that Savannah has discovered that Marti and Dan lost their virginity to each other back in the day, all of a sudden Marti is back to being an outsider.

Which raises the question—when is a newbie officially taken into the fold of a cheerleading squad?This depends. Many college cheerleading squads have a tradition of letters. At Stephen F. Austin University, those letters are LCLM. “It’s like letters for our fraternity,” one of the cheerleaders explained to me. “It’s the idea that we think of ourselves as a family, and that we always will be.”

SFA cheerleaders have the letters LCLM embroidered on their clothes, doodled all over their notebooks, and a few brave souls have even gotten LCLM tattoos.

Earning membership into LCLM, though, takes much more than just making it through tryouts. This squad has a year’s worth of initiation rituals—including one where I witnessed a guy chug an entire bottle of ranch dressing. (For the record: most of what I witnessed was pretty benign and couldn’t be called full-out hazing.) For a full year, new members of the squad are referred to as “rookies” until a secret ceremony held just before Nationals. Only then do they learn what the letters actually stand for.

So, will it take that long for Marti to earn her letters?