From Soccer to Cheerleading: Grace Neema’s Story

By Raven Ash

When QU senior Grace Neema was a freshman, she moved her way off of the field and onto the sidelines.

Neema was soccer player at Galesburg High School in Galesburg, Illinois., before attending Quincy University. However, she did not plan to continue playing soccer at a collegiate level. Instead, she decided to move out of her comfort zone and join the QU cheerleading team.

Neema tried out for the cheer team during her freshman year of college and is now wrapping up her final season.

Despite Neema’s lack of experience, her teammates welcomed her onto the team because of her strong work ethic and drive to do well.

“She definitely always worked hard to make sure she was never behind.    She has always been enthusiastic about trying new things and keeps trying until she gets it,” Christa Wiskirchen, QU cheerleader, said.

In an interview with QUMedia’s Raven Ash, Neema talked about what it was like to join a collegiate cheerleading team with no previous cheerleading experience.

What made you decide to cheer instead of play soccer in college?

I could not focus with school and soccer. Going away to games and stuff was really hard. I also thought it would be more fun to learn new skills.

What was it like walking onto a collegiate cheerleading team when you had never cheered before?

Walking on to a collegiate cheer team for me was really hard. I had to learn new basic steps that I did not know as a person. Yes, I used to be an athlete, but cheer is a whole different ballgame so I learned how to base, how to back, and sometimes even how to fly in my first year.

Why is cheer important to you and how has it benefited you through college?

Cheer is important to me because it keeps me fit, I learned new skills that I had no idea I could do, it has brought me many more friends and a relationship with a coach that I really didn’t know before and now I know that I have another support team.

What were some of the struggles you faced with cheer?

I struggled with everything from learning and memorizing cheers to stunting, but I overcame them by putting in more practice time.

What was your favorite part of cheer and why did you enjoy it?

My favorite part is cheering on our athletes. I enjoy it because as an athlete myself, I know how important it is to be able to have people cheering you on.

What are you thankful that cheer has given you?

Cheer has given me another platform to make new friends and learn new skills that I never knew that I had.

Do you ever regret not playing soccer in college?

I used to, but I am a strong believer in ‘if I was meant to play soccer, I would have’, but I’m happy with being ‘Grace the cheerleader’.

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