by Arianna P.
The outbreak of Covid-19 has affected numerous athletes throughout Massachusetts. The Duxbury High School Varsity Cheerleading Team shares their journey of how they stay positive throughout this tough time.
The abrupt ending of the Cheer season last year left many athletes in disbelief. Losing the ability to participate in the sport these athletes love caused a flood of emotions. The initial uproar of the pandemic that shut the world down made it difficult to find positivity. The athletes kept in close contact with each other over social media, text messaging, FaceTime, and many more platforms. Keeping in touch with their teammates and checking in on each other helped the team’s bond stay alive.
When the new school year began in September 2020, the cheerleaders were still not granted their season. Most sports are individual and don’t require extreme close contact, whereas cheerleading is the opposite. It would be impossible to follow the covid guidelines and restrictions at that time, so the cheerleaders had to wait patiently hoping they could be given their season back. When rumors floated around that there was going to be a season called “Fall 2” beginning around March, the athletes were ecstatic. Although the regulations made the season different, no one cared and was just happy they had a chance to cheer.
Sadie P, a junior at Duxbury High School who is an upcoming captain of the varsity team, was excited to have her team back.
“None of us cared that competitions and games were going to be different,” said Sadie. “The fact that we even got to have our season was enough for us.”
Planning out the season and how to go about it was not an easy task. The struggle of having an extended time away from cheer did affect some athletes’ ability to return. Without the opportunity to practice their stunting and tumbling skills over the pandemic, it took a bit longer than usual to get the hang of things. Not only was the lengthy break a setback, but there was the challenge of cohorts, social distancing, masks, covid cases, team bonding, and events that weren’t able to take place.
One of the biggest drawbacks for this year was the restriction of team bondings that couldn’t take place. In a normal season the cheerleaders would host multiple team gatherings so that they could get together and form stronger connections. Without a doubt everyone’s favorite is Friday game days, when there would be a team breakfast held before school.
Fridays were really important day’s to the cheerleaders where they were able to bond with their team, and get excited for the game that night. After the team breakfast everyone would pile into different seniors cars, get coffee, then drive to school together. Every athlete would always look forward to Friday mornings with their team. There were also team dinners, parties, and gatherings that would be planned throughout the season as well. Specifically on competition mornings, all athletes would gather at someone’s house and do each other’s hair and makeup. It was a time for everyone to connect with each other and get hype for their competition. The challenge of getting the team to rope together this season was tougher than previous years.
Jill M, a senior at Duxbury High School was a captain for the varsity cheer team and had to come up with ways to overcome this obstacle.
“It was super challenging at first when we had a lot of new faces that didn’t know how cheer usually is” she said “So we made it really important to communicate with each other and put in an effort to make practices more of a bonding experience”
Although bonding outside of cheer was not in the picture this year, the team still managed to band together and stay positive. Returning athletes made it a priority to help the newcomers feel welcomed. They made the most of their time together at practices and stayed patient with the difficulties thrown their way.
To further complicate the team bonding challenge, the cheerleaders were separated by cohorts at the beginning of their season. Based on the athletes’ school cohort, they were split into two opposite sides of the Duxbury Middle School gym, where their practices are held. There was no intermingling allowed with the cohorts. Social distancing was taken so seriously that the two cohorts had water breaks at separate times.
The athletes who had their friends in the opposite cohort had more trouble adjusting to the division. The positive impact from that issue is that athletes got to bond with people they normally may not have if they were merged together. This gave the team an opportunity to get to know more about their other teammates. Thankfully, a couple weeks into the season the cohorts were able to practice together as a whole team. This was a huge step forward and gave them the ability to start preparing for their competitions.
The layout of competitions this year were completely different from what any cheerleader was used to. All events Duxbury attended would be virtual.
Sophia M, a senior at DHS as well as captain, explains what competitions were like this year.
“Competition day’s this year were oddly less stressful,” she said. “This was due to the fact that we had to take videos of our routine.”
To get an idea of what a competition day would look like this season; all athletes would get ready at their houses, arrive at the DMS gym, and film their video of the routine so they could submit it to the competition. Although competitions were no longer as fun, the virtual option did have it’s benefits. At an in-person competition, you would get to perform once in front of the judges and that was it.
Sophia M, shares the advantage of having a virtual season.
“We were able to re-shoot and re-perform our routine as many times as we’d like” she explained. “Unlike previous seasons where we only had one shot to do well”
The team was given an edge on their competition this year with the ability to do this. The virtual competitions absolutely had their positive factors. This new system created a less tense environment on competition days. With the worries taken away from standing out in front of judges and crowds, the team was able to perform their hardest.
Although this season was nowhere near typical, it still took place and that was all that mattered.
Madeline M, a junior at DHS, reflects positively on the experience.
“It’s been a super tough year with lots of challenges,” said Madeline M, who will be a captain next year for the varsity squad. “I’m super excited for next year to see what the new season brings for the program.”