The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the start of many sports and club activity seasons, but with the start of a new semester and local cases staying low to moderate some teams have started practices and games again. However, the cheer team is not one of those teams.
Typically cheer would have tryouts in the beginning of the fall semesters with practices and performances continuing into the start of second semester, making them a fall or winter sport. Unlike most sports at Concordia, the cheer team is a student organization operating under the athletic department, and is not associated with the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAC). This means they are not subject to the same COVID-19 safety requirements and plans as other sports teams at Concordia.
So far this year, they have not started practicing. It is also unclear, as of yet, if they will be able to practice when spring sports start.
“I am very frustrated that we are not able to cheer and other more contact-oriented sports are able to practice and compete,” said Georgia Wachtler, a junior social work and psychology double major and a member of the cheer team. “I don’t understand why we aren’t able to practice even if we have no games to cheer for.”
“Cheer at Concordia is very intertwined with the activities for which we cheer. The decision regarding our participation was by nature somewhat dependent on the decisions made for the other programs,” said coach Jenna Sorensen. “There is also the additional component of fan interaction. When the decision was made that there would be no spectators allowed for winter sports, it was also decided that the cheer team would not be present.”
The team was told by Concordia that they could not cheer at basketball games due to no spectators being allowed, but cheering at football games has yet to be communicated.
“Concordia College never stated that cheer could not have practice, nor communicated with the members of the cheer team on how to return to practice safely as other school affiliated sports have,” said Lauryn Hinckley, a junior and member of the cheer team.
Hinckley suggested that cheer could be modified by wearing masks during practice and that, if given regular tests similarly to other sports, they should be able to safely stunt following CDC guidelines. Wachtler said that she would give up stunting for a season and do cheers masked and distanced if that meant that she could practice again. Sorensen explained that if cheer were to start back up, the earlier stated precautions would be put in place as well as the possibility of not stunting to stay safe.
Cheer is a community that gives students a support group and a sense of belonging at Concordia.
“Team members are missing out on the continued progress and development both personally and as a team, as well as the camaraderie,” said Sorensen. “Also, most of our new team members are incoming freshmen, so we will see if next year we have more sophomores try out or if we have lower numbers from this class.”
The absence of cheer practices has also caused a halt to improvement in stunting skills, the teaching of dances to new members and the process of putting together a halftime routine.
“It was a difficult decision, but as someone who prefers to err on the side of caution, I think it was the right decision. Like everyone, I am disappointed to be missing out on so much over the past year, however I also understand the reason why and think that the health and safety of our team and their families is more important,” said Sorensen.