Cheer team faces additional regulations for 2020-21 season

Performing+straddle+jumps+at+Cheer+Extreme+Fairfax%2C+seniors+Matthew+Hwang+and+Jenalyn+Dizon+attend+one+of+their+weekly+tumbling+practices+%289%2F14%2F2020%29.+To+maintain+safety+protocols+while+developing+cheer+skills%2C+these+practices+hold+only+about+five+students%2C+all+of+whom+must+wear+masks.+

Performing straddle jumps at Cheer Extreme Fairfax, seniors Matthew Hwang and Jenalyn Dizon attend one of their weekly tumbling practices (9/14/2020). To maintain safety protocols while developing cheer skills, these practices hold only about five students, all of whom must wear masks.

Yasmin Kudrati-Plummer, Staff Writer

In accordance with new Virginia High School League (VHSL) safety measures, the Jefferson cheerleading season will begin on February 15th, as opposed to August 3rd. These new regulations are not only impacting the competition aspect of cheer but are also impacting the community aspect of it.

“You can’t be a cheerleader by yourself,” Sean Nguyen, a senior cheerleader said. “You’re relying so much on the community around you, people to not let you drop and fall, people to help you hit your tumbling, and because of that, you really establish a close connection with everyone on   the team.” 

Nguyen has been cheerleading since sophomore year, and since then has found both supporting friends and role models on the team. 

“It’s so meaningful because they are not just impactful on the sidelines, or impactful on the mat, but they are also mentors,” Nguyen said. “Especially when I was a sophomore, I was still navigating how to succeed in high school as an underclassman, and a lot of the upperclassmen were really good guides.”

Despite missing out on the community aspect of cheer, many cheerleaders are attending weekly, hour-long tumbling classes and Zoom workouts. These aim to be effective in keeping the cheerleaders in shape and giving them opportunities to maintain relationships with fellow cheer members. If quarantine continues, Molly Barron, a senior cheerleader at Jefferson, plans to put up resources online. 

“I could videotape myself doing the cheers with a sibling or a friend, and upload videos of these routines to our cheer’s YouTube channel,” Barron said. “This way, students can participate in the sport at home and learn routines while staying safe,”

When the season resumes in February, the sport will not be exactly the same as it was pre-coronavirus. All coaches are required to go through training for coronavirus protocols.

“We’re supposed to take everyone’s temperature when they get there. We need to know what exact temperature someone must be to the point that they cannot participate, how to record that, and how to notify the parents when this happens,” David Arthur, Assistant Director of Student Activities at Jefferson, said. 

Coaches have limited access in deciding how their sports will go in the fall, but they are able to choose whether the sport will have Green Days, days where students can work on individual skills prior to the start of the season.

“I decided to not have practice until we’re able to have full cheerleading meets, because it’ll just be lunch and conditioner, and we won’t be able to delve into the parts of cheerleading that most need work,” Mary Brunson, the cheerleading coach, said. “Right now, we don’t know what is going to happen, we don’t know what the season will look like. It’s just the unknown.” 

With this season postponed, there are some notable impacts it may have on hopeful college athletes. 

“I plan on cheerleading through college,” Jenalyn Dizon, another senior cheerleader, said. “It’s just a bit nerve-racking, not having a final season to practice and to develop new skills before going on to try out for a college team.”

Despite this, the team has kept a positive and optimistic outlook on how things will turn out, and how cheerleading will go after it resumes next February. 

“I think the first couple of days will be a stumble, but as long as we keep up that good mental attitude, where we are like, ‘Yes, I can do this, yes, this is something I’ve done before, this is something I can learn,’ we will fall right back into it. It happens every year anyway,” Barron said.