For Brown cheerleader, it’s gimme a ‘Y’ (chromosome)

By
Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Frankie Martinez ’10 is the only man on Brown’s cheerleading squad, but bring it on – he doesn’t mind.

Martinez, a community health concentrator from Fresno, Calif., said he didn’t cheer in high school but joined Brown’s squad after a friend encouraged him to.

“I just really liked it,” he said. “It was good people and lots of fun.”

Additionally, he enjoys the close relationships he’s built with the rest of the team.

“It’s good to connect with a lot of the girls,” he said.

The team, which cheers from September through mid-March, practices three a week and cheers for one game a week during the football season and two games a week during the basketball season. The team’s small size – 15 during football season and seven during basketball season this year – also facilitates bonding. Because the squad travels to nearby football games in addition to spending three or four nights a week together for most of the year, Martinez said the team is very close, adding that they regularly go out to dinner as a group and recently had a squad sleepover.

He even lives with two of his teammates, Slki Hong ’10 and Han Cun ’10, in a suite in Young Orchard.

Along with friendship, Martinez provides much-needed strength for the team’s stunts, in which some squad members hold or toss others in the air.

“Guys can do more stuff in terms of stunting,” Hong explained. “Frankie can be part of lots of different stunts, and he adds a lot of strength to the team.”

In fact, Hong and Cun said, the team is limited by its lack of men and has been actively seeking more like Martinez.

“Right now, we don’t have that male strength to do the really cool stunts,” Cun said. “We try at the activities fair to recruit girls and boys, but guys never come to the tryouts,” she added.

Cun and Hong said the last time the squad had more than one man was during basketball season 2006-2007, when there were two. But Martinez was not on the team then. Those two men graduated in 2007, Martinez said.

Martinez is the only male on Brown’s squad, but nationally, he is not alone.

“If you look at squads across the nation, the girl-to-guy ratio its pretty much equal,” Cun explained. Indeed, Hong said Harvard’s squad boasts five males, and the University of Kentucky’s team – which won the Universal Cheerleaders Association’s National College Cheerleading Championship this year – has 23 men on its 46-person squad. Furthermore, Martinez said he also cheers for a local team, where he is one of several men.

Still, he said, “guys are kind of novelties in the cheerleading world,” and he tends to get recognized around campus as Brown’s only male cheerleader. “I meet so many people who are like, ‘Oh, you’re the guy cheerleader,'” he said.

“Everyone – athletes, students, security guards – recognizes him,” Cun said.

In fact, Martinez said he has formed a relationship with Green Horn Management event security guards, who have seen him at games and now recognize him around campus and at parties.

Martinez said, in general, his presence on the team doesn’t garner too much controversy. “Here it’s not that big of a deal – Brown is so open and fluid anyway,” he said.

And though Hong said she believes many students are uninformed about male cheerleading and the squad in general, she thinks most of the attention Martinez gets is positive.

“I feel like there’s a negative connotation with guys being on a cheerleading squad,” she said. “But I think Brown loves him.”

For his part, Martinez is just happy to be part of the team, contributing to Brown’s school spirit. “I’m there to lift people up,” he said. “I think we’re a much-needed contribution to lifting the spirit of the crowd” – which, he said, can be difficult given Brown’s notorious lack of school spirit.

“It can be discouraging being in a completely empty gym,” he said, adding that Brown sports tend to bring in much smaller crowds than other local teams, like the University of Rhode Island’s teams.

“For me, it’s just my way of getting involved with the school and to try to infuse spirit in people,” he said.

Cheer coordinator Shirley Corio said Martinez has a great attitude and “contributes a lot to the team.”

“He can perform all the skills, and he can put on the show,” she said. “He’s the whole package.”