- Alma School District
Cheerleaders happily adapt on fly
By Kevin Taylor
Alma cheer coach Christy Law couldn't wait to become a cheerleading sponsor. An opportunity to nurture her squad was something she looked forward to.
But there were no documented strategies when it came to pandemics. Amid the COVID-19 crises, Law and other cheerleading sponsors across the state happily took whatever precautions necessary to be able to cheer on their respective schools.
In order to do so, cheerleaders — as well as athletes and coaches — are required to wear masks.
"Staying positive is the best way to make it work," Law said. "If you complain about it, then everyone's going to be upset. Everyone I've talked to and schools I've visited with, the girls have worn their mask-like they're supposed to."
Law, who is in her eighth year as the school’s cheer coach, abides by the Arkansas Activities Association rules.
"The AAA rule is that, if we're performing a routine that has stunts or tumbling in it, then we do not have to wear a mask," Law said. "But when we're cheering on the sidelines, we do have to wear a mask. That's been difficult because they're still having to scream and yell and be loud while wearing that mask."
Alma cheerleaders finished second at the state meet over the Christmas break. They were back in the gym this week, cheering on the school’s basketball teams.
“I feel really lucky that we get to cheer because I didn’t really think that we would even get to go to competitions this year,” senior Lydia Bowerman said. “Getting to go to state meant a lot to me.”
By rule, the eighteen Alma cheerleaders, including the aforementioned Bowerman, are only allowed to cheer at home this season.
But there was some doubt last summer as to whether or not the AAA would allow any sports — or cheering — at all.
Wearing a face covering, it turns out, was something Law's crew seemed to readily adapt to.
"Honestly, I thought it would be," she said. "I thought they would be really upset when they found out they had to cheer on the sidelines with masks, but at that point, we had gone from not doing anything for so long, I think they were just so excited to actually get to have a football season and do stuff.
"It was hard getting used to wearing a mask constantly, but there weren't any complaints on having to do it."
“Masking up is definitely odd, but I’ve gotten used to it,” Bowerman said. “Now, it’s not really a big deal.”
Despite COVID restrictions, Law and Co. are looking forward to presenting via zoom for nationals. The program was crowned National Champions in 2018.
"We're hoping to do our national competition virtually, so we'll record it here and see what the results will be virtually,” Law said. “Competitions have been challenging because of all the quarantining. In a typical year, you're learning your competition routine and you'll use that same routine all season long. But we were having girls pulled out, almost every day and almost every week, so we had to change our routine a lot and that was challenging."
“This is my first year of varsity, so I’m so happy to have a better year than most people would have expected,” added sophomore Emalie Griffin said. “I didn’t think this year would be as good as it is. It’s been harder than usual, and I have missed out on a lot of opportunities you would usually get, but it’s still been a fun year.”
Senior Ansley Kirkendoll said 2020-21 has been her “best year” ever.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s paid off because we got runner-up,” she said. “It’s probably my best year of cheer.”
Along with Bowerman, Griffin, Kirkendoll, Alma’s squad includes Madelyn Adair, Cashmere Albright, Justice Carter, Haven Frazier, Charis Hutchinson, Kylee Lineberry, Payton McCain, Annie McCallister, Emma Moore, Zoe Piaquadio, Trinity Rhodes, Maci Robins, Kaitlyn Sampley, Ashley White, and Madi Williams,
"It definitely made us realize how much we love getting to cheer at games and getting to go to competitions," Law said. "Away games were kind of difficult in football because the girls would have to go from having to wear masks from 8 o'clock in the morning until we got home at 12 at night because we have to mask up on the bus and on the sideline."
“It’s hard to cheer through your mask,” Kirkendoll said. “But we were able to make it work.”