Shayla Koester, of Ottoville, and a senior at Ohio State University has seen the OSU dance team rise from a club sport to a squad.
By Josh Ellerbrock
If you take a personal trip to "The Horseshoe" these days down in Columbus, there's a good chance you'll see a fellow Putnam County resident down on the field. She probably won't be two-stepping toward the endzone with pigskin in hand, but she'll definitely be dancing.Shayla Koester, a senior Ohio State University (OSU) student and former Ottoville resident, has witnessed the OSU dance team rise from a club sport as a freshman to where it is now, a squad entertaining crowds at OSU sporting events beside the cheerleaders and band as a second-year captain.
The dance crew takes up to 18 students every year from an audition in the spring. To meet the criteria, members must dance at a very high level. Most members have been dancing for years before trying out. And once they make it, they are required to spend at least 16 hours practicing and even more performing. Add on personal training and actual schoolwork, and Koester's job as a scholar-athlete trumps most adult's 40-hour work weeks without any pay or scholarship help. At the end of the day, Koester says it's worth it.
"If it wasn't," she said. "I wouldn't want to do it again."
Koester started dancing 15 years ago when she was two years old. In high school, she pursued a more contemporary form of dance. And at OSU, she had the opportunity to join the dance team. At that point in time, the dance team was just a club team. There was talk of it becoming a part of the athletic department, but all the funds that the club used, including a trip to Florida to dance in national competition, were raised from member's own bank accounts.
During Koester's sophomore year, the club joined the athletic department, and the team got itself a venue at basketball games. By junior year, the dance club got a coach and more venues at wrestling events. Koester was also voted in as the club's captain.
Now, during her senior year, the club is dancing during football games and creating spirit beside the cheerleaders.
"It's very exciting for us, It's pretty neat at how we've come about," she said.
On the field, dancers are needed to create a charged and spirited atmosphere. Some sports fans find staying at home a more comfortable experience then sitting in the stands. OSU and its dedicated team of spirit rousers, which include Koester, work to prevent that by creating an electric feeling of sportsmanship and competition that draws fans to the bleachers.
Besides games, the dance team is also required to work at other events that need an injection of OSU team spirit. Koester has danced as part of the team at corporate grand openings, golf outings and even Bar Mitzvahs. The team as well as Brutus can be hired out at any Buckeye-themed gathering.
When Koester isn't dancing for corporate entities or entertaining fans, she's preparing for competitions. Last year, the OSU dance team came in fifth in the nation while moving through jazz and pom routines. This January, they're pushing for an even higher spot in the nation. As captain, she is helping as much as she can in that goal. Her duties include working the team through some of the dance steps and routine (such as incorporating moves from the Korean superhit Gangnam Style) during practices.
Though she heads a leadership role, Koester enjoys the team-minded community that her and the dancers have create after spending so many hours together. She enjoys it so much, that she is looking at being part of the dance team for a fifth year. Since members have to be a full-time student and Koester is running out of courses she needs to take, however, that may not happen.
"It's sketchy" she said. That doesn't mean that she'll leave the field forever. She'll just have a different role.
Koester is currently pursuing a marketing degree with which she hopes to get a job organizing that spirit that she personally raised many times over for professional sports teams instead of the Buckeyes.
"There's so much more behind the dance team than just the performance aspect," she said. "You get to make great friends."