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Anyone who’s attended an RU basketball game over the past few years will know exactly who the RU Rockers are, and what they’re all about.
Halftime is usually the time where fans will go and grab a soda from the concessions stand or maybe take a quick bathroom break before the second half starts. But the Rockers, the official dance team of Radford University, have made sure that RU students and Radford locals alike stay right where they are for the halftime show.
The Rockers, who are comprised entirely of female RU students, perform anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute during halftime to a medley of pop tunes remixed to fit their routine. Head Coach Shannon Woodfin, a former Rocker herself who spent four years dancing on the team while attending RU, has been coaching the Rockers for the past six years.
“I know that we started to get competitive two or three years before I joined the team,” Woodfin said. “It moved on from being a spirit thing, and it really took off in terms of dance level and dance technique.”
In the fall, the Rockers practice twice a week with each practice lasting anywhere from two to three hours. Additionally, the Rockers have to put in gym time to keep in shape, which they’re told to do on their own time.
In the spring semester, when the Rockers are training to go to Nationals in Daytona Beach, Florida and to perform at basketball games starting in December, Woodfin organizes six practices a week. These practices and performances, on top of the fact that the Rockers have full class schedules and some have part time jobs, usually leads to some pretty hectic schedules.
“I live in the library for hours on end sometimes during the year,” senior Bridget Nelson, who’s been a Rocker since she was a sophomore. “But it’s just adrenaline when I step out onto the floor, I love it. There’s just this excitement, and you can see it on the faces of the people who are watching us. It’s a great feeling.”
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” added freshman Kelsey Sowder.
Sowder and Nelson have both been dancing since they were three years old. Most of the young women on the team have been dancing since before they stepped into their first kindergarten class. Coach Woodfin has also been dancing since her toddler days, as she took her first dance class at the age of two.
“It’s like a family we have,” Nelson said. “We hang out even when we’re not performing or practicing. We scream across campus when we see each other or see a Rocker backpack.”
The Rockers open up each halftime performance at the Dedmon Center with a pose before the music starts; each performer twists their body to make up part of a different letter from their team name. By the time the music starts, fans know exactly who’s on the floor. ‘R-O-C-K-E-R-S’.
“I think we’re the strongest we’ve been since I joined the team two years ago,” Nelson said. “I’m just excited to see how it goes. We have some amazing dancers this year, and they’re all underclassmen. I’m really excited to see what the Rockers are going to do in the next few years.”
“Sometimes I really have to get on them if they’re not practicing at a high level,” Coach Woodfin said. “I think honesty is a good thing. I tell them they look dead, and I make them do it again. We only have the precious time that we have so we have to make the best of it. Most of the time, though, they pull it together and do a great job.”
Thirty minutes before the Rockers are set to perform at an RU Men’s Basketball game in front of several hundred people, Woodfin makes the team run through their routine until everyone feels comfortable. At the end of the last walk through, Woodfin reminds everyone to touch up their makeup.
“Presentation is a big part of performing at these basketball games,” Woodfin said. “I don’t think anyone realizes the level of dance that these girls are at just because a lot of people don’t know the dance world, so it’s a lot of showmanship and spirit for our basketball teams, both men and women.”
According to Woodfin, the RU Rockers travel to the Nationals competition hosted in Daytona Beach, Florida every year. While the team hasn’t made it to the finals in the years that Woodfin has been on the team (both as a dancer and a coach), one of the team’s main goals is to make it to the finals in Daytona Beach. No matter how hard Woodfin pushes the team, though, another main goal she has for the Rockers is to just have fun.
“I want to have fun and do my best,” Sowder said. “As long as I’m happy and try my hardest, I think I’ll be successful.”