By Daylan Paige
Athlete of the Week, Ja’Mya Rucker was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She is a graduating senior, majoring in Biology with a minor in Chemistry.
“I plan to be an OBGYN in the near future. Hopefully, I will have my own practice right at home because I believe in pouring resources back into the communities I grew up in, instead of leaving those communities for better opportunities. I am a flyer on Xavier’s Cheer Team, as well as a Head captain. A fun fact about me that not too many people know is that other than cheering, I was also a singer a long time ago,” Rucker said.
When and why did you start cheering? What is a good trait you have acquired from cheering through the years?
I started cheering at a very early age. When my Mom found out she was having a girl, it was already set out on the sports that I would play. While cheering throughout my life, some traits I have acquired include being a good leader, as well as being patient. Cheer is never defined. Something may happen that changes everything, so as a leader I have to be willing to follow through with those changes.
Do you have any rituals you do prior to cheering at a game or competition? What song or artist do you listen to to get you hype?
I have several playlists I listen to, to calm my nerves. Sometimes I drink a little coffee if it is early morning. I pray before I get to warm-ups, and I pray while waiting to compete. For game days I rest up beforehand, and I play music while I get ready. Some of my hype songs are “Weak” by Flo Milli, “Dead Trollz” by NBA Youngboy, and “Want Sum” by Enchanting; however, I have several songs that I listen to. Some of my favorite artists would definitely be Lil Durk, Young Thug, Drake, Mariah the Scientist, Roddy Rich, etc. The list really goes on forever.
What is your role on the team and what is your favorite thing about having this role?
I am a flyer, but I am also one of the head captains of Xavier Cheer. My absolute favorite thing about my role is being able to connect with my team. I am probably the friendliest person on the team, and I truly take pride in my team caring about me just as much as I care about them. They know that they can talk to me about anything, regardless of whether it is cheer-related or not.
What challenges have you faced being a cheer captain and how do you overcome them?
I am so easy-going and sweet, that I never really realized that not everyone will be satisfied with the decisions you make. However, that just comes with the territory. There will always be someone that may not agree with what you choose to do. The way that I deal with that is not caring about what someone thinks of me. I never make any decisions ill-advised, and as long as I believe in it that is all that matters.
What are you going to miss most about XULA cheer? Can you describe the HBCU cheerleader experience?
I will definitely miss the connections I have made while cheering. There are some people that I really hold dear to my heart, like the other head cheer captains for example. Not being around them all the time is definitely what will be the hardest part to grasp. I value my friendships very much, and most of them have turned into my sisters. HBCU cheerleading is like no other. I literally would not have it any other way. I take pride in being a black, experienced cheerleader. It is always empowering to be surrounded by other talented cheerleaders that look like, and have similar cultural backgrounds, like me.
What does a typical practice day look like for you and your teammates?
Practices with my teammates are long. We practice really hard, and six times a week on average. Sometimes we have two practices in a day. We joke around. We have several cheer fails and bloopers that are hard to not laugh about. We also have to be focused and motivated. This includes being in the moment and cheering each other on. It is really how we get through those long practices.
What motivates you as a student-athlete to balance the sport and school?
Cheer plays such a major role in my life. Without it, I would not even know what to do with all the free time I would have. By policy, we have to maintain a good GPA to be involved in sports. I take my education very seriously, but the fact that I love cheering so much makes me want to do good in school. It is hard sometimes. I always say it’s not really enough hours in the day to be a Xavierite. Between studying, my personal life, and cheer, it becomes overwhelming sometimes. Some days I am exhausted and sleep-deprived, but I have to get it done.
Where have you enjoyed traveling to and competing for the most and why?
I have traveled quite a bit across the country to compete. Some of my favorites include Orlando, Florida, Davenport, Iowa, Nashville, Tennessee, and Atlanta, Georgia. I love being in a place I am not familiar with and creating a name for my team that is not at home. Competing takes your whole day. However, when I do have the time I explore the cities’ tourist attractions. Next week I will visit Miami, Florida for the very first time to compete, and I feel like that trip will be the most memorable.
Support the Cheer team throughout their competition season and follow Ja’Mya on Twitter @Issmya and Instagram @jammm.lanette