According to Sacred Heart Athletics, Executive Director of Athletics, Bobby Valentine announced on Sept. 24 that the dance team will be transitioning from club sports to varsity sports. The program now joins 33 other Division I athletic sports at Sacred Heart University.
Originally, the dance team started as a club sport in 1994 and consists of 40 dancers. For 20 years, Deirdre Hennessey served as head coach of the dance team and was a member of the team at Sacred Heart in 1994.
Current head coach Reina Van Florcke was a member of the dance team when she was an undergraduate student at Sacred Heart from 2010-2014. After Van Florcke graduated, she remained involved with the dance program by serving as an assistant coach for four years. She is now in her second year as head coach.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the dance team’s schedule has been different. Dancers now condition two times a week. However, the team likes to push themselves even further than conditioning two times a week in order to become better dancers.
“One major difference in the team’s schedule this year is they have two workouts a week,” said Van Florcke. “They’ve loved adding this to their weekly schedule and pushing themselves to be in the best shape they can.”
Every year in April, the dance team holds clinics for incoming dancers who want to try out for the dance team, which is different from how other college sports recruit potential players.
“As far as recruiting, we have held college prep clinics in the past to get dancers ready for their college tryouts,” Van Florcke said. “This clinic is for high school or current college students to help them prepare for our tryouts in April.”
The dancers have an overall goal that they want to achieve as a team.
“I asked the girls last year what their goal for the team was and several of them said they wanted more recognition from the university,” Van Florcke said.
Senior Dance Captain Nicolette Muscarella mentioned that the dance team is capable of performing at the Division I level.
“I believe that the team’s transition gives us every opportunity to show everyone what they should see after our countless hours of hard work,” Muscarella said.
Senior Captain Nicole DiPietro was enthusiastic when she heard the news about the dance team shifting from club sports to varsity sports.
“This transition ultimately supports and recognizes the SHU Dance Team for all of our hard work, dedication, and pride that we encompass as dancers,” DiPietro said.
Shifting to a Division I sport gives the team a chance to showcase more than just three minutes of their routine.
According to SHU Athletics, the team performs at all home games for football, men’s basketball, and other Sacred Heart events. The team also competes in two highly competitive categories held in Daytona, Florida every April through the National Dance Alliance.
“I cannot wait for the new opportunities and experiences we get to take on as this new transition starts for this year and for the future team,” Muscarella said.