Harriet Roberson has become quite a popular figure at UCF events. She has been approached by fans looking for autographs, often gets recognized at football games and has even been stopped by Athletic Director Danny White.
But she isn’t an athlete or a coach. She is part of the UCF Mom Squad.
What started as a group of UCF players’ parents getting together to watch games has morphed into a social media movement: The “#UCFMOMSQUAD” is now part of the university’s culture.
Moms, fans and even UCF’s official athletics Twitter account have tweeted about the Mom Squad, and several moms in August appeared on NBC’s Today show, waving signs outside the studio to support the school and their sons.
“It just got crazy so fast, and we’re just expecting it to really blow up even more as time goes by,” Roberson said.
The group has about 40 moms so far and keeps growing.
— Harriet Roberson (@harrietroberson) October 4, 2018
“These women have been, I mean, awesome,” said Mary Schneider, whose son Cole is an offensive lineman. “… they’re just a godsend; they are lovely women and I am blessed to be a part of it.”
When Roberson’s son Anthony, a tight end for the Knights, started attending UCF in 2016, she was surprised that many of the athletes’ parents didn’t connect with each other.
“When we first came into the school, we just assumed that all the mothers and the dads and everybody knew each other, and we were coming in and trying to figure out, ‘Well how can we get in this to meet the other parents,’” Roberson said.
So Roberson, who moved to Central Florida after her son started at UCF, began trying to meet as many other football parents as possible. As she ran into more moms, they would take selfies together and post them online.
“A photographer from the school came by and said, ‘This is just like the mom squad,’” Roberson said. “He took a picture and just went on about it … and I was like, ‘That’s our name! That’s our name!’”
Since then, the Mom Squad has grown to be much more than just a couple of photos. The parents now have a group chat with more moms being added every week, they go to games together and they even tailgate at home games.
— Libby (@Libs407) October 6, 2018
Before UCF’s recent contest against Pitt, a table filled with home-cooked food lined one side of the tent as families chatted with each other. Their enthusiasm was high, as some moms met each other for the first time.
“I had never heard of the Mom Squad,” said Rose Anne Powell at the tailgate, her first squad event.
“I was clueless, so because of their hard work and due diligence, I am now a part and I’m loving it … it’s excellent,” said Powell, whose son Jon is a defensive back.
The Mom Squad, however, is about a lot more than just watching games together. The parents formed a bond, knowing that they can rely on one another for help and information.
“We’re from Pittsburgh, so we didn’t know anybody,” said Karrie Cholewa, whose son Mason is a defensive lineman. “We were all kind of going in this blindly, not knowing anything. So it’s really helpful that you can reach out to anybody at any given time. A text, through Twitter, through Facebook and say ‘I need help with this, can you help with that.’ It’s just nice to know that you can reach out and have support.”
The support took a more serious turn during UCF’s season opener at UConn, where defensive back Aaron Robinson was injured on the first play of the game and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher.
Robinson’s mom wasn’t able to get a last-minute flight into Connecticut, where her son was going to be staying overnight in the hospital. So quarterback Darriel Mack’s family, who had traveled to the game, went to the hospital to see Robinson. They brought him a hamburger and gave his mom an update on how he was doing.
“My mom’s a very caring woman,” Mack said. “I’m pretty sure Aaron Robinson is really grateful for my mom being there ’cause being in the hospital at an away game’s probably kind of scary.”
The Mack family, however, weren’t the only ones looking out for Robinson’s mom.
“All the mothers of course sent her notes,” Roberson said. “Just to let her know we were thinking about her and praying for her son and asking how he was he doing.”
There are no signs the Mom Squad is slowing down. A new Facebook group was started for the families just a couple weeks ago. And Roberson is looking to keep adding more members.
“I have a couple ideas about even trying to find some other moms who may not be in our group yet,” she said. “We’re just excited about it. It’s a lot of fun. We’re having a good time with it and being a support system to the moms.”
— UCF Knights (@UCFKnights) September 29, 2018