By Daniela Raymond
Cheerleading whether at the sport or club level is an interactive sport. Audiences love to see cheerleaders launched into the air, performing intricate routines and amazing flips, all while landing safely in each other’s arms. While stunts are always visually engaging and exciting, it is also essential that they go safely.
When all goes well, the airborne cheerleader, known as the flier, is caught by other cheerleaders, but not always.
Stunting on the SUNY Plattsburgh cheer team was placed on pause due to a lack of insurance policy. Sports team insurance protects students, coaches and the athletic department. Typically including a combination of risk protections that ensures teams are participating in activities safely.
In previous years, when stunting was allowed, the team was mostly comprised of cheerleaders with years of experience. During the pandemic, the team continued to practice through Zoom calls and many of them kept their spirits high, connecting with each other when and however they could.
Losing the wow factor of stunting on the cheer team was detrimental to their efforts to perform.
When sports resumed after quarantine, the team was still not allowed to stunt due to miscommunication with sports and recreation offices not understanding the sport. In 2021, the team held its first tryouts after returning to campus and while 30 to 50 girls tried out and many of them made the team, upon learning that there was no stunting they later quit.
The lack of stunting that year would leave the cheer team ending the season with closer to 15 girls.
Kaylyn Tierney, an alumna cheerleader, spent five years on the team from 2016 to 2021. She led the team as a captain and returned as an assistant coach and has been volunteering to help the cheer team in the past three years.
Tierney said, “I’ve been around for eight years, and this is the first tryout where we’ve never had enough girls to make cuts.”
When most people hear cheerleading, you expect to see stunting. Cheerleaders placed in their well-practiced pyramids, holding signs and chanting, but this element is not here on the SUNY Plattsburgh Cheer team.
Karen Waterbury, the director of recreation and club sports, was previously in charge of the team’s insurance. Coaches and captains reported directly to her, delegating forms and various safety measures. After her retirement, Melissa LaMere was placed in charge of the cheer team as the assistant director of athletics for campus recreation.
After months of communication between coaches including, Tierney, the proper insurance forms were not found, despite signing liability papers ensuring that if cheerleaders are injured, they cannot sue the school. After failed attempts with LaMere, the girls went to the Athletic Director Mike Howard, who was also not able to clear them to stunt.
After months of discussion, the team was finally able to work out a plan.
Oct. 14 and 15, the girls will be receiving professional training in risk prevention, allowing them to stunt safely.
The cheerleaders are just getting into the hang of things with the new season. They are learning cheers, dances and tumbling. This year, there were only three returners to the team and only eight new members, making stunting difficult when it is finally possible.
The addition of stunting adds many highlights to the team. Practices are more fun and engaging, and they often get an even better reaction from crows at games and performances. Another major benefit of stunting is competition season.
Cheerleading has two sides. While showing school spirit and supporting the school teams is a major component, getting to travel to competitions and show their skills is also a big factor, and for some, it is the significant element that sparks them to cheer.
Many freshmen looking to join the team embrace the competitive nature of the sport and the lack of stunting creates a huge disconnect for them.
Previously, the team competed in Reach the Beach in Ocean City, Maryland, and various competitions at SUNY Albany. They would leave excited, bringing home banners and trophies gearing up for another practice to bring home more metal.
In order to make sure that the team is stunting safely, they have to trust each other. The team works on building that bond through team bonding and practicing tumbling in slow progressions.
The biggest part is knowing your job.
“As a base, no matter what I had to catch my flyer, I knew there was no way she was allowed to hit the ground,” Tierney said.
The team is ready to begin tumbling again this season and can’t wait to grow in members. If anyone is looking to join the cheer team, they are welcome to join throughout the semester. Practices are Wednesdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and Sundays, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. You can follow the SUNY Plattsburgh Cheer team on Instagram for more information follow @platts_cheer.