In this guest blog, former Red Hot and VSU alumna Carmen Rowser tells us about her VSU experience as a student-athlete, how she became a Red Hot, and what it taught her. She is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Communications at Valdosta State and is a Graduate Assistant in the Office of Career Opportunities.
In October 2017, I came to tour VSU with my dad. I walked into the Admissions office to get checked in and a former Red Hot was working. That was sign number one. She started making small talk while we waited for others to check in and asked what I was interested in or if I did any extracurricular activities while in school. I told her I was a dancer and that I was involved in band/colorguard (those pretty flags you see during halftime, not ROTC). Her face lit up when I mentioned I was a dancer and she started talking about the Red Hots dance team at VSU. I told her I wasn’t planning on dancing after high school, but I would check them out.
My tour guide starts the tour and once we finish, my dad and I head to the Front Lawn to take a picture in front of the fountain. Luckily there were two girls who were laying out that offered to take our picture. They introduced themselves, asked if I was planning on coming here, and again asked if I was involved in any extracurricular activities while in high school. My answer was the same, I’m a dancer and I’m in the band/colorguard. They smiled with excitement and brought up that they were on the dance team at VSU, the Red Hots. Sign number two. I responded that I just met someone in Admissions who was on the team a few years ago and they knew exactly who it was. They also told me to think about it and check out the team’s page.
After that, dancing in college began to be a thought in the back of my head but it was a situation where if it happened, it happened but if not that’s ok too. Weeks go by and my dance teacher asks the seniors if anyone was planning to dance after they graduate. We all said no, probably not but we would come back to visit and even take classes when we could. This rang a bell to at least look at the Instagram page of the dance team at VSU and see what they were about. The first thing that caught my eye was that at the time they were six-time national champions. Not really knowing exactly what competition they attended, I wanted to keep looking into this team that was obviously successful! Then I saw the most recent post was a picture promoting that they were having a college prep clinic. Sign number three. I told my parents I was interested in going just to get the experience. Little did I know that would change my mind instantly.
As I just finished my Super Senior year, I couldn’t imagine not trying out for Red Hots. While I have grown as a dancer, it’s taught me so many life lessons. I’ve gained more discipline, leadership, and motivation. I also learned to stay committed even when things get tough. Being able to represent VSU in a different aspect more than just academically has been the best. There are a lot of challenges that come with being a student-athlete, but it was all about finding balance and leaning on friends and family to help you through it. School life itself has always been a challenge for me but somehow being a part of an organization made college life an easier transition through undergrad and now grad school.
Not many athletes, especially in the cheer and dance world, get the opportunity to continue their sport in college for longer than four years. At times, thoughts would go through my mind like, can I keep up with a dance team dancing at this level? Will 6 a.m. workouts be worth it? Can I make it through these hard three-hour practices? Should I dance next year? The answer was always, yes! The group of girls that were by my side each year were the reasons for coming back year after year and why things were a little easier. Time is limited and everything had to end at some point in time, so it was important to push every practice, workout, and performance like it was your last. I wouldn’t trade my five years as a Red Hot for the world and I can’t wait to support the future teams and see them accomplish their new team goals.