From the Sport’s Editors Desk… Keeping cheerleaders benched makes no sense

Published 1:37 am Friday, January 22, 2021

When the TSSAA first placed their attendance policy in place for fans to basketball games, although it wasn’t a popular decision, at the time when numbers were rather high keeping fans and cheerleaders to a minimum may have made some sense.

However, with the TSSAA’s recent extension of their attendance policy, admittedly it makes little sense why cheerleaders aren’t allowed to be present and cheer on their teams much like their counterparts in Virginia who are present but spaced out throughout the bleachers in a designated section.

One thing that parents and fans need to realize is this is not a decision being made by the athletic directors at the schools but is coming from Nashville so any fingers that are being pointed need to point in that direction.

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I believe that one misconception is that many believe that cheerleading is not a sport however those who don’t believe this hasn’t seen the hard work and effort behind the scenes, not including the money that is spent by cheerleaders on learning tumbling and gymnastics to make them a more well-rounded cheerleader.

Cheerleaders attend summer camps and work after school to hone their skills so they can help bring the school spirit to the student body and community during football and basketball.

In actuality, cheerleading is a dangerous sport considering how those who participate perform stunts and tumbles that can result in injuries just like any other sport.

It’s not uncommon to see a sling over an arm or a boot on an ankle or leg.

Cheerleading has evolved as well as now there are many males who have entered the arena of a sport that at one time was mainly female with ample college scholarships available for both genders.

Yes, it is easy to sit back and just see a group of pretty faces with their hair up in ribbons shaking poms or chanting cheers, but watch more closely during timeouts and watch as they perform their tumbling runs and stunts and it doesn’t take long to recognize that these lovely young ladies (and good looking guys) are true athletes.

Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to handcuff these cheerleaders to the sidelines and not allow them to participate as they mainly get to cheer only during football and basketball.

Some of the girls are in their final year of high school and must just stand by and watch the season pass quickly by on their senior year as basketball teams get to play.

This is not right and the TSSAA needs to allow these cheerleaders to be a part of the game of basketball.

In watching highlights of a Gate City, VA basketball game against Abingdon. the Gate City cheerleaders were in a section seated at least 6 to 8 feet apart, sitting down, and cheering for their team with facemasks on.

The same can be done at about any Tennessee gym including the five schools in Carter County. I was covering the Elizabethton-University High game this week and there was one section where the cheerleaders always store their gym bags completely open.

I have included a photo in this article and one can see for themselves how easy it would be to social distance 12 to 15 girls in this section and allow them to cheer for their team.

My message to the TSSAA is to do the right thing and allow these cheerleaders who have worked so hard to have the opportunity to enjoy the final short weeks of the 2020-2021 basketball season.

They are athletes and need to be participating – some for their final time representing their schools.