The Texas Tech Cheer squads have some of the most recognizable faces on campus. The coaches and mentors directing these squads are the unseen faces behind the scenes of every game and competition performance.
Bruce Bills, head coach for Tech Cheer, has been involved in cheer for 13 years, was a cheerleader himself for three years, assistant coach for five years and is now in his fifth year as coach. Bills said coaching for Tech Cheer has been an amazing experience for him so far.
“Working with these athletes has been wonderful, and this is a dream come true,” he said. “I love Texas Tech and the traditions they have along with the history. Continuing with the sport that I love, being leaders means promoting the university as much as I can by using the squad to make sure they get all the experiences that I had.”
Bills said that under his direction, Tech Cheer has had notable accomplishments in both the game day performance and competition aspects of cheerleading.
“In 2012, we added back our all-girls squad, and so that really helped us cover more academic events and public appearances — each year, we do about 200 public appearances — and so it was crucial to get that other squad. They also serve this area well,” he said. “This coed squad competes nationally, and so in addition to covering the sports and public appearances, they do compete, and last year they ended up with second place at nationals. It’s very competitive, but it’s a fun time, too.”
Bills said his favorite part about being head coach is seeing the students’ growth within the squad.
“You see what they know and what they learn from their freshman year and how they grow from it,” he said. “Their eyes light up when they get to experience their first football game and their accomplishments over the year. I love to see their growth.”
Bills said his most memorable moments as head coach were the 2008 Tech versus Texas game and his coed squad making second place at last year’s nationals competition by a narrow margin.
“On the coaching side, the 2008 Tech versus Texas football game, I was assistant coach at that point, was always a great experience,” Bills said. “There’s been so many incredible games, but on the competition side, last year coed got second place at nationals by .05 points, and seeing the excitement on the students’ faces was a great thing that I will always remember.”
Bills said that for any students interested in trying out for Tech Cheer, they must know the program, as well as their own capabilities.
“Be sure that you know the program and that this is a good fit for you as far as what we will be doing in the communities and the events,” he said. “We’re going to be doing the athletic events and competition with coed, and so you want to make sure it’s a good fit for you. You should also know about the school and make sure the traditions and history fit what you want with your academics, because it is important to get involved outside of the classroom. Make sure you are in a place that is a good fit at the right time.”
Sammi Vonderschmidt, a senior business management major from McKinney, has been on the squad for three years and is one of the flyers. She said she admires Bills’ attentiveness to the squad’s performance and the way he cares for his cheerleaders.
“He genuinely cares about us,” she said. “A lot of programs that compete are very skill-based, but with Bruce (Bills), you can go to his office and talk to him about anything and everything in life, whether it’s cheerleading or something that you need help with, he is there and really cares about our squad. He listens and pays attention to our needs and doesn’t make us work anything that we wouldn’t need to do. If we say that we’re hurting, he knows it. He pays a lot of attention to the little details that go on in cheer.”
Thomas McCarthy, a junior advertising major from Derry, New Hampshire, has also been on the squad for three years and is a tumbler. He said he admires Bills’ compassion toward his squad and his communication with the students.
“If he notices your grades slipping, he might tell you to focus more on your grades, but he will never be abrasive or yell at you for things like that,” he said. “He communicates with us really well and works with us to feed our energy.”
Deylon Kirschling, a freshman kinesiology major from Austin, is a first-year member of the squad and said she likes Bills’ love for Tech.
“My favorite thing about him is his passion for the school,” she said. “You can tell when he talks about Tech, or before each performance he talks about how we are representatives and ambassadors of Texas Tech. He emphasizes the importance of what we are doing and who we are doing it for.”
Chris Quiaoit, a sophomore kinesiology major from Chicago, Illinois, is a first-year member on the squad and said he has Bills to thank for his good experiences.
“My favorite experience is just every practice we have,” Quiaoit said. “He has so much passion and he rubs that off onto us. I never thought I would love Tech as much as I do now, and I want to personally thank him because I wouldn’t be on a cheer team at Tech without his help.”