Cougarettes celebrate 70 years of ‘sisterhood’

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The Cougarettes perform at a time out during a basketball game this season. (Ari Davis)

Much has happened in the last 70 years. In 1946, gas was 21 cents a gallon, a postage stamp was three cents, LaVell Edwards was about to turn 16, and the Cougarettes were formed.

In the words of Cougarettes head coach Jodi Maxfield, the Cougarettes were originally “just a club that gave women something to do.”

The team has come a long way since the days of long skirts and bobby socks. A force to be reckoned with, the Cougarettes have won 15 national championships.

But while the uniforms have changed, Maxfield said the values never have.

“The sisterhood that the Cougarettes represent has remained consistent,” said Maxfield. “We feel a connection to those who have been on the team, and we stress that to focus on the heritage and the legacy.”

The Cougarettes, the female marching group, perform in the George Albert Smith Fieldhouse in 1953.
The Cougarettes, the female marching group, perform in the George Albert Smith Fieldhouse in 1953. (Jodi Maxfield)

Cougarette Alumni Chair and former team member Shalice Larsen agreed.

“When you come together as a group of women, with the same passion and love for something, then to be able to share that in a wholesome, uplifting environment is super rare,” Larsen said.

Larsen, who was a Cougarette from 1993-1996, recognized that the culture of dance throughout the world has changed drastically. Now dance is often more risqué and sexually charged, and that does not align with the values and standards of the Cougarettes.

“They’ve been very consistent in that, unlike anyone else in the world to stay at a certain level of integrity while the whole world around you is completely different, that’s huge,” Larsen said. “They don’t have to go out and be like everyone else to be recognized.”

Maxfield believes that the decision to shift the Cougarettes from the university’s dance department to its athletic department has made for a better fit.

“The culture is about winning and having successful teams,” Maxfield said. “We feel we fit right in.”

Maxfield said that the teamgets the best of both worlds. The Cougarettes cheer and represent BYU, but also put on shows that utilize their many years of training. Maxfield stressed the importance of keeping the “artistic part of the girls” alive and well.

Larsen agrees that the department switch has been beneficial for the Cougarettes. She said the team is “recognized more” and gets more “respect” being in the athletic department.

But, for the Cougarettes, it’s not about recognition. It’s about camaraderie.

“That’s what really connects us: being involved in something so joyful and positive and just really brings people together,” Larsen said. “Even those that I wasn’t with, we still all feel that connection because we’ve all had that feeling that we love.”

1960s BYU Cougarettes form a “Y.” The Cougarettes were a drill and marching team until transitioning to a dance team in the ’70s. (Photo courtesy of Jodi Maxfield)
1960s BYU Cougarettes form a “Y.” The Cougarettes were a drill and marching team until transitioning to a dance team in the ’70s. (Jodi Maxfield)

Coach Maxfield said that the Cougarettes unwavering connection to one another is what makes it a sisterhood.

“The way I felt about my teammates and what it means to be a Cougarette has stayed the same,” Maxfield said. “We feel a connection to those Cougarettes who are and have been on the team.”

The current Cougarettes team has the chance to honor the storied history of their program at their 70th anniversary concert. Head dance captain Erika Cox said the team was excited for the privilege.

“It will be so special to take the stage and represent all of the previous years (of Cougarettes,” Cox said. “The legacy of Cougarettes is what it is because of those who have gone on before us, but it has only grown stronger.”

The BYU Cougarettes will be performing in concert February 18- 20. Maxfield said  it’s will be a “genuine dance concert.” The audience will see ballet, hip-hop, jazz, lyrical, and contemporary dances, and the team’s two award winning pieces from nationals. Tickets can be bought here.

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