Back Handsprings and COVID Things

How LT Cheer is Adjusting to a New Reality


Madison Phung, Editor

From engaging with wild crowds at sporting events, to leading state send-offs in thrilling fashion, to decorating the school in green and gold, LT Cheer has become one of the most integral parts of the school’s identity because of it’s constant involvement in raising school spirit among the student body and the community. However, due to this unpredictable school year, the cheer team has had to adapt to the new obstacles that COVID-19 has brought.


One of the biggest priorities for LT Cheer is to ensure the safety of its cheerleaders and coaches. In addition to following new COVID protocols, the cheer team has carefully restructured its routines and activities to reduce the risks of infections. 


“Cheer has changed in numerous ways since last season. Our practices now consist of social distancing, mask-wearing, and hand sanitizing. This year, we were given a cheer class period, which has been really nice. Because we have a class period now, we currently do not have our typical after school practices. These practices may be brought back in October, though, to prepare for competition season. Another thing that has changed due to COVID is stunting. Until last week we were not allowed to stunt due to close contact. We now have the opportunity to stunt as long as we wear masks and use hand sanitizer afterwards,” co-captain Isabella Grogman said. 


The cheer team experienced drastic changes to their plans over the summer, with tryouts being held virtually and cheer camp being moved from TCU to school campus. 


“In a normal situation, we would go to UCA camp during the summer at TCU. Due to COVID, we could not do this, but we did get the opportunity to have our first ever home camp,” co-captain Kate Harris said. “At this home camp, we got to experience the same things we would have at UCA away camp, but only with the girls from our school. I thought it was a fun and unique experience because we got to have more one-on-one time with our UCA instructors as well as more team bonding time.”


As co-captains of the varsity squad, Senior Kate Harris and Junior Isabella Grogman have  important leadership roles in various activities, which include starting practices, communicating frequently with coaches to make decisions, planning pep rallies, calling cheers at games, sending reminders out to the team, and being a model example for the rest of the girls. This year, COVID-19 has given them a chance to expand their leadership skills.


“A new responsibility that has come this year is planning how to adapt with COVID. It is definitely a little more challenging to think of things in advance this year because there are so many uncertainties, but that also makes the job more fun and exciting!” Grogman said. 


With football and volleyball seasons underway, LT Cheer has adapted new regulations so they can maintain a safe environment at games while cheering, such as better spacing, minimizing touching, and sanitizing. 


“The biggest difference for this season is that we must wear masks. We got some really cute cheer masks that are now part of our uniform,” Grogman said. “We wear the masks when we are stunting but not when we are actively cheering.”


In light of COVID-19, LT Cheer continues to stay focused on keeping up with school spirit and creating more unity among students who have faced significant isolation this past year. 


“We plan weekly themes for football games to get the student body excited and involved.  The cheerleaders made their spirit signs and continue to hang them in the halls to promote school spirit,” Coach Larissa Ledbetter said.


Because cheer requires a deep commitment, a main part of being a cheerleader requires facing the strenuous task of participating in weekly school events and attending rigorous practices while maintaining their grades. 


“It’s been a little bit challenging balancing school with cheer since the season is really starting to pick up and so is my workload with school. I always like to get my schoolwork done by Thursday night since I know we have football games on Friday nights that go until late. We also sometimes cheer at volleyball games during the week that I have to be mindful of. It is really important for me to take into account my cheer schedule when I am planning out my week, so school and cheer don’t conflict with one another,” Harris said. 


The pandemic has presented many unknowns to numerous cheer events this year. Even though significant cheer-sponsored events such as the Holiday Market and Breakfast with Santa have been cancelled, LT Cheer hopes to partner with a local mercantile to offer shopping options and chances to support its program. Despite unprecedented times like this, LT Cheer is still committed to the goals they set for this year and is ready to carry out its traditions in new ways. 


“We hope that the UIL competition plays out as it has in the past. Our program has worked so hard to grow in skills and talent. We took 13th place last year and are absolutely capable of breaking into the Top 10 cheer teams in the 5A division. Tryouts for the competition team were recently held, and we will soon learn choreography in hopes or competing at UIL. If the state doesn’t hold a competition, we will compete privately with NCA or UCA,” Ledbetter said. 


Regardless of the alterations to this school year, freshmen cheerleaders feel optimistic about the new experience of high school cheer and are eager to grow as cheerleaders and students. 


“The transition from middle school to high school cheer was easier than I thought it was going to be, especially since we do not have to come in the mornings for practices anymore like we did in middle school. Having cheer as a class period helps me get my classwork done, “ freshman Payton Stewart said. 


For senior cheerleaders, they are disappointed that they will miss some experiences due to the coronavirus, but they are set on making the most out of their last year and having fun.


“COVID has definitely altered the way I expected my senior year and last year of cheering to look. It is sad not getting to have another normal pep rally like we used to have. There was always such excitement and adrenaline rush having around 1,000 students in gym all getting excited for the game,” Harris said. “My mindset now has had to shift. We already missed out on the spring football game as well as sleep away cheer camp, which always has some of the best memories and stories. There is a lot that is uncertain this year, but it is important to treat everything like it is your last and not take the things we do get to do this year for granted.”


Even though COVID-19 has made this year especially challenging and unpredictable, LT Cheer is determined to not sideline school spirit and is excited about what is to come in the future. 


“I can’t wait to see how far this team will go. Our program is crazy strong and crazy innovative, so I am excited to see what these girls are capable of doing!” Ledbetter said.