Written by Tonia Sabino, C'04
Feb. 11, 2004
Everyday we are faced with decisions. Some will forever change your life and some will be nothing more than a mere blip on the radar. When affronted with choices that are life changing, we often look to those around us for the guidance and knowledge that will lead us in the right direction, in hopes of eventually having everything fall into place.
For University of Pennsylvania student-athlete Hasani Sinclair, looking to those around him is a way of life. With the advice provided by others, Sinclair has made a set of life decisions that have forever changed his collegiate career in ways he could have never dreamed. A native of Maplewood, N.J., Sinclair finished high school with dreams of wrestling at Boston College, but has emerged as a Quaker who bleeds Red and Blue as member of both the sprint football team and cheerleading squad. But if it were not for the help of those around him and a little bit of luck, Sinclair's story would be completely different.
As a senior at Montclair-Kimberley, Sinclair was a three-sport athlete who had dreams of a quality education and collegiate athletics on his mind. Sinclair decided that he would attend Boston College or Penn, with BC holding the edge. However, a talk with a friend's father changed all that.
"I pretty much chose Penn on a recommendation from my friend's dad. It had come down to Penn and Boston College and at the time I really wanted to wrestle in college, so I decided that I was going to BC," Sinclair said. "But then people started saying, 'Penn's an Ivy League school. You should really consider it.' Then one day after lacrosse practice, my friend's dad pulled me over and basically lectured me for about 10 minutes about Penn. I didn't even visit the campus. I just sent in my deposit and hoped for the best."
Luckily for Sinclair the decision to become a Quaker has turned out for the best. He loves the situation he is in and although his dream of having a collegiate wrestling career has faded into the distance, Sinclair has become a two-sport athlete, who balances the demands of both sprint football and cheerleading - activities he took up after suggestions from friends.
"I started playing (sprint football) freshman year. One of my roommates played and that's how I heard about it. So I called Coach Wagner and he said to come out. I went to one of the team's Sunday lifting practices and I decided to play. Simple as that," Sinclair remarked.
The story is the same for the more unconventional sport - cheerleading.
"I knew Mary Dear, who had been a cheerleader for basically her whole life, and was cheering here. At the end of freshman year I was at a party with her and she suggested out of the blue that I try cheerleading and I said yes. We went out to the Green and tried some partner stunts and I decided that I liked it a lot," Sinclair said. "Then she gave me Gail Zachary's number and I gave her a call to let her know I would be coming out to be a cheerleader."
Since first donning the Red and Blue uniform on both the playing field and the sidelines, Sinclair has seen numerous successes. As a defensive lineman, Sinclair has received honorable mention for All-Collegiate Sprint Football League (CSFL) and was a member of Penn's CSFL championship team in 2000. In 2003 alone, he amassed 11 tackles, including nine solo hits, in five contests.
In addition to his football accolades, Sinclair is a two-year letterwinner in cheerleading, where he is the epitome of Penn pride. The senior was a member of Penn's 2003 UCA Small Co-Ed cheer performance championship squad and has participated with the squad at two NCAA men's basketball tournaments.
Like all student-athletes, Sinclair has learned to balance the demands of academics and athletics. But Sinclair is doing double duty. Balancing one sport and a full course load is hard enough, but it is twice as difficult to compete in two sports during the same season. For instance, on a typical weekend in the fall, Sinclair takes hard hits playing sprint football on Friday night only to return to Franklin Field on Saturday morning to cheer on Penn's other football team with the rest of the Red and Blue cheer squad. While this schedule is definitely hectic, Sinclair is willing to make the necessary sacrifices in order to succeed.
"Sometimes I look back on it and say, 'I don't think I would be doing both sports if I didn't absolutely love it.' I really love playing both sprint football and cheerleading, it just happens that the seasons coincide," Sinclair said. "As far as getting work done, I do whatever I have to do. If I have to stay up late, I stay up late. I read before practice. I get it done where I can."
Despite the difficulties that come along with the path he has chosen, Sinclair is truly fulfilled by his experiences. Even though he never intended to play football or cheer in college, he has found exactly what he was looking for.
"I really enjoy doing both. As far as cheerleading is concerned, I really like being in front of the crowd at football games and having toast thrown at you, as well as being on the sidelines during an Ivy championship season," Sinclair remarked. "As for playing football, I just love it."
While Sinclair has enjoyed every step of his journey, it is difficult to be a trendsetter and to take an unconventional route and in turn he has faced his share of critics. Yet at the same time, he has been faced with masses of supporters.
"I was going to try to keep it (being a cheerleader) a secret, but that didn't really work. So my teammates (sprint football) do make fun of me, but it is good in some ways. They will come to football games and sit in the front row to cheer me on," Sinclair said. "I actually got two of them to come out for cheerleading this year, Nick Kopec and Ryan O'Toole. Now there are three of us on sprint football and cheerleading so it is pretty fun."
Aside from the occasional mocking, Sinclair has found support from his teammates. That support, in combination with the insight that his experiences have given him, has allowed him to understand what is really important in life.
"Think less about what people are thinking of you and more about how happy you are," Sinclair said.
"I think that you will find a lot of people who are going to support you in what you want to do. In sports, there are always 15 to 20 people on that team who love it as much as you do and those people are going to be supportive of the sacrifices you make and the flack you are willing to take to do whatever it is you do."
Sinclair is happy with what he does. He has a great support system and he does not think that being both a football player and a cheerleader is that outlandish. He will even tell you that despite all of the obvious differences, sprint football and cheerleading are the same on some level.
"They are different types of sports with different types of difficulties. As far as how the sports are played, in football you have a position and a job to do. It is the same way in cheerleading. They are a team, a family, just like any other sport," Sinclair remarked.
Sinclair is already part of a family, the Penn family. He bleeds Red and Blue, just like the rest of us. While it's not necessarily the path that he had intended to take, it is the one that he was given when he let things fall into place.