This marks the second season for the squad to compete in the Universal Dance Association College Nationals.
“My goal for the team is to always max out their capabilities,” said Alvarado. “The smallest detail can make the biggest impact on your performance.”
Coming off their World Championship last April, the Pom Squad begins what will be an active 2023. From spring contests to their involvement in many elements of Texas Tech's Centennial Celebration, there will be little down time.
After capturing National Championships in the National Dance Alliance (NDA) for Division 1A Jazz in 2017, 2018 and 2021 as well as NDA Division 1A titles in Pom in 2018, 2019 and 2021, Alvarado decided in 2022 to change things up.
The Pom Squad shed the familiarity of the NDA for something new with the Universal Dance Association (UDA) College Nationals. As Alvarado explained, the difference has a good deal to do with alignment with the athletic seasons at the university and whether football or basketball has a greater influence. Most schools in NDA have a greater focus on basketball while UDA has more of a football influence.
Alvarado had judged UDA competitions in the past and thought she knew it from that perspective. But as found out last season, it's a completely different experience on the competitor's side.
“I pride myself as someone whose teams are always hyper-prepared,” she said. “But how do you hyper-prepare someone for something you've never done yourself?”
The change from NDA to UDA also meant an increased amount of competition – going from a handful of programs to more than 30.
“From a dance perspective, the one we switched to is deeper,” said Alvarado. “Significantly deeper as far as programs that parallel ours.”
Texas Tech Pom was able to bring home a fourth-place finish in its first trip to UDA – not bad for having never performed in this competition.
“We weren't happy finishing fourth, but that's the highest anyone has ever finished in their rookie year in D1A Jazz,” said Alvarado.
Sure, the team was disappointed by the outcome, but there was an area maybe even more disappointing to Alvarado and the pom squad. To the group, it appeared many people only noticed their absence from sporting events and didn't know they were actually competing.
“Because so many people only see us on the sidelines, one of the only ways we get that recognition from the Texas Tech community is by being the best,” said Alvarado.
“I feel like last year most of the people at the school didn't even know we went. And that's disappointing.”
Alvarado thinks one reason was the time frame: the worlds competition was in line with previous years' NDA schedule.
But just a few months later, the team was back in the same venue for the International Cheer Union (ICU) World Competition and they took home a world title.
“We know what success feels like in that venue now,” Alvarado said.
A year has now passed, and the amount of knowledge Alvarado and her team have gained since the fourth-place finish at UDA and the win at ICU World has led the group to evolve.
“I think the veterans this year really prided themselves in learning from last year,” said Alvarado. “They implemented team meetings, which I thought was very helpful. And it was not me; I think that's what has been missing the last few years.”
The team has also taken a more well-rounded approach to the overall experience of being a Texas Tech Pom squad member. This year Alvarado enlisted the help of Texas Tech strength coaches as well as the athletic trainers to help the team improve mentally, physically and emotionally to better address the stress of a long season.
“They are willing to sacrifice a normal college experience for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” she said. “They do it because of the challenge. They do it because of what they're learning and who they are becoming. They don't do it for the tangible things.”
“We're not here to just dip a toe and just hope and pray for the best. That doesn't get us to where we are or where we want to be.”
Texas Tech Pom takes the floor Saturday, Jan. 14, 7:20 a.m. for the Division 1A Dance Jazz semifinals at the Walt Disney World Resort Wild World of Sports Complex. Watch the live stream of the competition at Varsity TV.