Covid has seriously changed high school cheerleading

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Photos by Coach Morgan DeYoung

The Varsity cheer team doing a team bonding game in which they try to make the tallest stunt.

 

 It is nothing new that COVID-19 has impacted almost every aspect of life, including sports. Professional, college, high school and even middle school sports were put on hold while the pandemic raged on. Cheerleading is one sport often overlooked when it comes to how much Covid has changed things. 

With cheerleading being a high contact sport, this season has been very different than in the past. Stunting was not allowed, practices could only run for an hour and a half and routines for competitions had to be spaced out to follow CDC and NCHSAA guidelines. 

 “In the beginning we were doing no stunting, so that meant our routine was extremely tumble heavy which was a lot different. We also did our first virtual competition which was a completely different experience than competing in person,” said Brenlee Shaw, senior and varsity cheer captain. 

Not only were there new rules for competing, but rules for sporting events were different from the past as well. The basketball season occurred  before football this year. Only athletes’ parents were allowed into games, cheerleaders had to stay spread out on the bleachers and no concessions were sold. Stunting was allowed to start back up Feb. 18, and rules became more lenient for football as it took place in late March. 

“It has been different without as many people in the stands. But I am glad that students were able to come watch football games so that I could actually experience what a normal game would be like,” said Reagan Webb, freshman. 

Being new to Athens and freshmen on varsity this year, many felt bleachers full of upperclassmen were intimidating, so they were glad to have emptier stands at the start of the season to ease into the high school scene. However, for the two seniors on the team, having a  season impacted by Covid was less than desirable. 

 “The big thing that I felt like I missed out on was the large crowds and during basketball season my friends couldn’t go to the games or my senior night due to capacity restrictions. Also having no pep rallies this year was a bummer,” said Shaw. 

The varsity team had three captains this year, Shaw being one of them, along with Addy Gilpatrick, senior and Eliza Magana, junior.

“It was a little harder trying to figure out how we were going to try to bond with each other without being in close contact and how me and the other captains were going to try to get the girls to communicate effectively without really having any [outside the gym] time together,” said Shaw. 

She recalls going out to dinner after filming a virtual competition video being one of the only times the team got to really hang out in a non-cheer setting. While new team bonding methods were hard to invent for the captains, the rest of the team felt that navigating the new way of cheerleading and communicating brought everyone closer together. 

   “I don’t think covid has affected the ability for all of us to work together, especially with practice every day. Everyone has been working very well and very hard to accomplish all of our goals as a team,” said Webb.

While this school year has definitely been a challenge for students, teachers and athletes alike, many like Webb are choosing to look on the bright side of things. 

“I’m very happy with this year being my freshman year cheering. I got to meet lots of new people and figure out how everything works. This year has been a really great experience overall,” said Webb.