The USC Song Girls program at the University of Southern California began as a way to improve attendance at basketball games in 1967. Just recently, the Song Girls celebrated their 50th anniversary on campus. They have turned into a program that are the official ambassadors for the USC campus, and they attend events that are outside of the sporting obligations that they have. The university, however, does not consider them as athletes.
I have been a fan of the USC Song Girls dance team for quite a while now and these young women train like athletes: the dancers have practice for 3 hours a day Monday – Friday during the school year at USC; yet, they do not receive priority registration to enroll for classes or have the opportunity to work with trainers as any other athletic program does. Their rigorous training sessions reminds me of a similar problem that ballet dancers often face: as a ballet dancer growing up, I was often told by my peers in school that ballet was not a “real sport,” which couldn’t be further from the truth. I can empathize with what the USC Song Girls are facing.
Essentially, all of their hard work as ambassadors for the university does not have the perks that the football team or other campus athletic programs receive, yet it’s arguable that the Song Girls carry the most spirit for the USC campus. The program is prestigious: there are only 11 positions on the team. They also carry a heritage with them that extends beyond the USC campus, and includes the broader scale of the Greater Los Angeles area, which includes their participation in the Pasadena Tournament of Roses, as well as a number of other social functions.
The parallels to other university dance programs such as the University of Mississippi’s Rebelettes are very similar. However, the Rebelettes are given access to trainers and priority registration, which is what any world class university should be offering to women who are apart of the official dance program on campus. I think this policy against denoting the Song Girls as athletes should change as these young women are athletes in how they train, therefore, they deserve the perks of the university’s athletic programs. The USC Song Girls program deserves to thrive as they are part of the heart of a spirited campus. #FightOn Song Girls