Texas Tech University has been a top contender at the NCA & NDA Collegiate Championship for years but has repeatedly fallen short of the title. This season they made history as they rose above the competition and claimed their first ever NCA National Championship title!
We caught up with Tech's head coach Bruce Bills to talk about the years of hard work and dedication that went into the final two and a half minute winning routine.
Texas Tech has been competing for the top spot at NCA College for years, how did it feel to finally take home the title?
One of the proudest, most exciting moments for all of us. It was nice to see all the hard work and efforts that were put in get rewarded. Added a sense of accomplishment to myself, our program, and the athletes both this year's and alumni who have competed and just fell short in past years. Being the first for our program, in the Coed Division, also makes this win special knowing we are part of history for our University.
Talk about this year's squad, did you know leading up to the event that there was something special, something different that would lead them to the top?
Yes, something about this squad seemed to click from day one. At tryouts, I saw this group of athletes stand above others not only in skills, but their character, and personalities. They really interacted well with each other and had that team chemistry from the beginning. A line from our Alma Mater, says, "Fearless Champions, ever be." And with this group, they took that to heart. They worked hard each practice, wanted extra practice and reps of skills. They practiced, performed, and were one unit. Very special and an honor to coach this group.
Was this year's preparations different than in years past?
We didn't really change preparations, but this team had a mental toughness about them that I feel that helped team work better together, and perform one of our best performances when it mattered most. We did try to arrange our schedules on our trip down to Daytona to get multiple (more than we've done before) showcase opportunities in. I wanted to help get some of the performance nervousness out.
This year, we really focused on consistency with proper technique and attention to details. With the score sheets changing, we wanted to make sure that we had the difficulty in the routine but also, we wanted to execute each skill to its fullest each practice or performance. We structured practices to make sure we were getting the best from each of the athletes. The team stayed focused all year and pushed each other to become better cheerleaders. Having multiple squad members that have won at various levels in their cheerleading career, they helped drive each one of us to work smarter, not just harder, but do it the correct way.
Did you have any special mottos for the year leading into NCA Nationals?
Our team letters (CTNOD) really carried and drove our focus this year. The veteran members did a great job of living the example of what the letters mean and introduced them to the rookie class in unique, fun team bonding ways.
For a fun warm-up song, the squad would play, sing, and dance around to "My Shiny Teeth & Me" by Chip Skylark. And thankfully it paid off, our shiny teeth were shining in the pictures with the trophy!
What does this title mean for the entire program of Texas Tech; past alumni and current & future cheerleaders?
I've gotten so many texts, phone calls, Facebook messages, etc. of congratulations and I know many of the squad members have too. It's a wonderful feeling for all of us, because it took all of us to get here. We all have worked hard over many years to develop and grow this program in all situations we're a part of -- gamedays, public appearances, academics, and nationals. I feel this year was a great reward for the entire program and University to see the efforts pay off.
Thank you to everyone that came out to welcome us home! Couldn't have done it without the support of each of you! #FAM— Texas Tech Cheer (@ttucheer) April 10, 2017
When will you start preparing for next year and how do you plan to stay on top in 2018?
Already have! On the bus ride home, I found myself already thinking of pyramid ideas and what skills I would want to include or try for at our first summer practice. Majority of my planning will happen over the summer after tryouts.
We watch videos to get ideas so we can put our touch/enhancement on to a skill we see and like. I also like to get the athletes input on skills. I want to see what stunts they show at tryouts, then which entries/transitions we have multiple ones of, or can get multiple ones hitting, solid.
I think moving forward, our focus will continue to be on executing skills and growing as cheerleaders and ambassadors for Texas Tech. I'll continue to give them performance opportunities to throw some elite skills in front of crowds, while paying attention to details and doing our jobs day in and day out. I also want each squad member to have a great experience and cherish these moments we get to represent the "Double T."