At sporting events, the talent isn’t found solely on the playing arena. Those who attend football games and basketball games have no doubt seen the USF Sun Dolls at some point during a game. Be it during a timeout or halftime, the Sun Dolls grace the center court or field with elaborate dance routines.
The Sun Dolls recently took part in a national dance competition, ranking No. 17 among 24 schools participating. This is the third consecutive year that the Sun Dolls have competed, showing steady progress each year.
“We compete against the best dancers in the nation, and that is something really big,” second-year Sun Doll Lynda Baker said. “A lot of the students think that Sun Dolls are just girls that can shake their butts really good and that’s just not true. We perform really technical routines that take months to prepare for.”
The routine performed this year has been practiced since early September. In their first year in competition, they finished dead last. The following year they finished in 20th place.
“I think we were as prepared for the competition as we could have been,” first-year Sun Doll Lyndsie Hess said. With only two seniors on the squad, the Sun Dolls look to improve in the following years as well.
“The program used to be very discombobulated, once we became disciplined and organized it helped us improve,” coach Caroline Wiren said. “We have a lot of talented girls.”
Much of their success is due to their hard work and dedication to the program, along with the tutelage of Wiren, who took over a program in disarray and turned the Sun Dolls into a competitive dance team in less than three years.
“Last year we beat four teams and this year we beat seven,” Wiren said. “We’re definitely improving.”
The Sun Dolls were never considered a part of the athletic community until this season. They were always associated with campus spirit squads.
“This year we’re really starting to be treated like USF athletes instead of just a spirit squad,” Baker said.
While they do attempt to provide spirit for the crowd and players, the Sun Dolls have a disciplined workout regimen. Workouts begin at 7:30 a.m. along with practices throughout the week. They are required to be at every men’s and women’s game. They also take part in every football game.
The time and commitment needed to be a dedicated Sun Doll can encompass virtually every part of their lives. Still, many of the Sun Dolls manage to succeed in the classroom. Baker currently has a 3.97 GPA.
“We understand that education comes first,” senior captain Jennifer Ramil said. “We spend a lot of time at practice and at games but we’re here to learn.”
Ramil has been a Sun Doll for four years and is one of two seniors on the squad. She was part of the squad that was together prior to being coached by Wiren.
“We’re a lot more structured under (Wiren),” Ramil said. “We understand how to work as a team.”
Hess, who transferred from a separate collegiate dance team, has used the lessons learned from being a Sun Doll in her everyday life.
“The discipline I learned from being a Sun Doll has taught me to use that discipline in every aspect of my life,” Hess said.
With the growing popularity of the squad, Wiren plans to expand and create a junior varsity team next year.
However, making it through the audition process is very rigorous. Most of the girls on the team have years of experience in dance and ballet.
“All the girls on our team have been trained at studios since they were three years old,” Baker said.
“Someone doesn’t just decide one day they are going to be a Sun Doll; they have been training for it their whole lives.”