Polk practices the one-man stunt
Photo by Bianca Ontiveros

Sophomore undeclared major Charles Polk has made his debut as the only male cheerleader on the team this semester and the first in decades.

Last year Polk was strolling along Cougar Walk on East Campus and randomly decided to do a backflip. Little did he know that in that brave act of displaying his skills, he would start a new chapter in his journey here at APU.

A cheerleader spotted him doing the backflip and approached him to ask if he would be interested in joining the team.

“She asked me, ‘Where did you learn how to do that?’ and I told her, “In my backyard,'” Polk said. “She asked me to join the cheer team and she kind of harassed me about it. I ended up taking her seriously and took her number and showed up to tryouts one day.”

In order to join, Polk had to go through the tryouts and show his commitment to the team.

“The girls did a little research to recruit some guys and Charles was the only one who took it seriously and stepped up to the plate, which we were really excited about,” head cheerleading coach Rosie Francis said. “I wanted to know where his heart was for this team and then he did tryouts like everybody else on the team.”

At first, Polk believed he would mostly enjoy practicing his skills and being able to tumble, but he is also enjoying learning new ones like stunting.

“I want to learn how to do the one-man stunt [holding someone up by yourself], and getting the full extension,” said Polk.

Francis is now going into her second year as the cheerleading coach and was able to accomplish a goal by finding Polk and getting him to join the team.

“I met him last year through some of the girls who were already on the team. When I first started we really wanted to push to make it co-ed, just because it is a lot more fun and showy at a game when there are guys who have a little more power to get us bigger tosses,” said Francis.

It has been over twenty-five years since Kent Stout, a former male cheerleader has been on Azusa Pacific’s team.

“I graduated in the spring of ’88 and at that time there were six guys and six girls on the team but within two years of my graduation there were no males on the team,” said Stout.

With a co-ed cheerleading team once again, Polk is changing the dynamics on the squad.

“It is definitely a different dynamic a good one. He pushes the girls a little harder at times than they push each other,” Francis said. “It’s definitely different when you have a guy on the team because they have that strength, and it’s kind of fun to see him set a high bar and them reach that also.”

Senior education major Lucille Chavez, a captain and base on the team, said Polk brings a commitment to and interest in what the team does.

“He gets excited about seeing things happen, so if we tell him, ‘Hey, this girl is going to back-flip in your face’ and when it happens he says, ‘Wow that was cool,'” Chavez said. “He’s all about it and I think that is what is exciting for us.”

Francis said she hopes the fact that Polk is on the team will spark an interest from more men to join the team.

“We have got a few people who are interested who I am going to talk to about joining in the spring,” said Francis.

Polk is also excited about the possibility of more men joining the team.

“Girls have conversations that are different from guys’, so I’ll be off to the side sometimes,” Polk said. “I don’t feel left out, it’s just not my place sometimes, so it would be great. I could finally have some guys to talk to instead of girls all the time.”

Polk said he is having a good time so far in addition to all of the attention he is getting from being on the team. He said he may consider staying on the team, depending on how this year plays out for him.