Written by Gabrielle Lamura and Becca Rawiszer

2018 marks the 50th year the USC Song Girls have lit up the football stadium with their spirit and crowd-boosting dances.

Besides their staple skirts students flaunt every Saturday and the energy they bring to game days, there is much more that goes into being a USC song girl than gameday.

"Being a Song Girl has been the most life-changing experience," said Sophie Rebeil, a senior Business Administration major. "In my three years on the team, I've grown from an 18-year-old girl to a young woman capable of conquering any challenge in front of me. I couldn't begin to imagine where I would be without the Song Girl program and my incredible coach, Lori."

The dance squad was formed in 1967 to encourage attendance at basketball games, but now they do so much more. They perform at multiple sports games and meets in addition to football games.

The dancers train three hours a day, Monday through Friday in order to perfect their cheers and routines. On game days the squad has to be ready by 8 a.m. for rallies and then a post-game show.

Daae Ann, a USC student and former competitive dancer, USC Song Girls should get more recognition for the time and energy they put in.

"I can vouch that it is not easy being up there under the sun for hours. So I definitely think they should get the same benefits as athletes," Ann said.

Ryan Cenicola, another USC student explained that he watched his girlfriend put so much time and effort into being a song girl with multiple hours of practice each day.

"They don't get priority scheduling or the meal plans," Cenicola said. "But they do a lot of similar work and carry a similar workload, so I absolutely think they should be considered athletes."

Rebeil said that although they don't share all of the same benefits as athletes, it does not change her attitude towards being on the squad.

"We have very comparable schedules to other athletes at USC. We would love to have the opportunity to have priority registration or work with trainers. However, we love what we do so much that none of that would ever deter us," Rebeil said. "We hope in the future we can give back to the program that gave us so much and implement privileges."

Along with rehearsing and performing the dance routines the USC community comes together for every weekend, the Song Girl program teaches them other valuable lessons.

According to Rebeil, this experience is worth it. "Our coach, Lori Nelson, doesn't make the program just a dance team. It's a lifestyle. She teaches us the importance of professionalism, respect, empathy, and tradition."