Alum Spotlight: GSDM alum cannot stop “cheering” for Boston University
Nothing is more exhilarating than adjusting a slicked-back ponytail with a glittery hair bow moments before performing dare-defying stunts with a team of close friends.
After spending four years off the competitive cheerleading mat, Amanda Alon CAS 12 CAMED 14 DMD 18 missed that feeling, so when an opportunity arose to serve as head coach of the Boston University (BU) Cheer Team – a team she’s been involved with off and on since 2008 – she jumped.
“It’s a great team and it’s something very close to my heart and that’s how they get me to come back and coach,” said Alon, who joined the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) Division I team as head coach in November 2022.
Alon started cheering at nine when she joined a Pop Warner team and has been enamored with cheerleading ever since. She competed for BU as an undergraduate and during one year of her master’s program at BU, rotating through the three main cheerleading positions: base, flyer, and spotter. She competed in the NCA Collegiate Nationals in Daytona, Florida four times in 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2014.
The NCA gives cheerleaders five years of eligibility to compete, so when Alon started at GSDM in the summer of 2014, she still had one more opportunity to go to Nationals. The then-coach of the BU Cheer Team knew she was still in Boston, so asked her to return as a base for the 2015-2016 season.
After coordinating with Associate Dean of Students Dr. Joseph Calabrese on how to balance cheering with her dental studies, Alon was ready to hit the cheer mat for one more chance of winning at Nationals.
“A big thing for me when I was in dental school was that I’d be stressed about my next exam and then I’d go to cheerleading practice,” Alon said. “I’d go to cheering practice and worry about what bow I was going to wear. It was stress but completely different, so it was just always nice to have that for me.”
Once Alon finished her final competition in 2016, she transitioned from cheerleading to coach, staying on with the team as its head coach until 2018 when she graduated dental school and moved to New York for a residency program. Under Alon’s leadership, the team placed fourth in the D1 Advanced division at Nationals, the program’s best finish ever.
After a break from cheerleading — during which she finished her residency, began teaching, started working in private practices, and moved back to the Greater Boston area – Alon heard from BU in 2022 to see if she’d be interested in taking over as head coach again.
Nowadays, she is coaching a team of 30 members. She works closely with the team’s choreographer to lead practices two to three times a week and plans for collegiate competitions. While the choreographer organizes the routine, Alon works to perfect it and plan the stunts. Earlier this month, Alon coached a select team of 23 to a sixth-place finish at the 2023 Nationals.
“This team has really persevered because they only had half the season with me to get everything kind of squared away and ready to go,” Alon said. “[At first,] I didn’t think that we’re going to be able to go to Nationals with only half the year because we haven’t practiced together. Then, I practiced with them once and I was like, ‘You guys are great. We’re going.’ The competitive side of me was like – I cannot not take them.”
Currently, Alon is balancing her cheerleading duties with her role as an assistant professor of pediatric dentistry at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine and her work at Marshfield Pediatric Dentistry in Marshfield, Massachusetts. It is a lot to juggle, she admitted, but said she is thankful for her team’s support.
“The team’s been awesome, accommodating with my schedule, and I have a lot of different friends that help me out in terms of choreography and helping me when I can’t do things or if I have to be late to something, they’ll supervise them for me, so it’s been nice,” she said.
Alon is already committed to more cheering, having agreed to be the team’s head coach for the 2023-2024 season. She said she wants an opportunity to work with the team for an entire season.
“I tell everyone I’m going to do one more year, and every time I do one more, I keep coming back, but I’m going to do one more year,” Alon said.
No matter what, the Boston University Cheer Team will always have a special place in Alon’s heart.
“I loved cheering when I was in middle school, but college cheerleading is a whole different ballgame of athletic ability, teamwork [and] camaraderie…” Alon said. “It’s just always been something that I’ve enjoyed doing, and it takes the stress off of other things.”