With Pac-12 football deciding to start back up on Nov. 7, the Arizona fans cannot help but wonder if they will be getting to see their cheer team as well.
Unfortunately for them, cheer, band, pom and mascots will not be attending the games yet. This, however, is not going to stop Arizona cheer from spreading their spirit.
The UA’s cheer team is full of dedicated athletes that are there to entertain and add to the excitement of game day. So instead, they have creatively decided to set up routines and stunts to post on Instagram during the games as a way to spread excitement.
Excitement has been a theme in the current mood of the cheerleaders as they have just recently got back to in-person practices.
“I cheer for the people, so just doing cheer online … I didn’t enjoy it that much,” Arizona cheerleader Spencer Campman said. “But being around the team again just brought back that same energetic scene again … good energy being back.”
“We were all just eager to meet the entire team and have something to do that gives us a little bit of a schedule,” junior flyer Savannah Manning said. “I know we all do cheer for a reason … we are doing what we love, so I know everyone is just happy to be doing something other than just school.”
Before the Wildcats got back their desired cheerleading schedule, however, practices had been fully online — an unusual experience that was more enjoyable than you might expect, thanks to a system they call “buddy practices.”
“You got one-on-one times or three people in a group watching each other stunt and cheer,” senior flyer Mirella Vindiola said. “Getting that time to talk one-on-one was so nice because you wouldn’t really have it if everyone was just there for a 6 o’clock morning practice.”
So if you were strolling the Tucson mall and saw people doing stunts in front of their computers, it may have been the Arizona cheerleaders at their remote practice.
But virtual practices aren't the only thing the cheer team is having to do remotely. The team was forced to hold its tryouts virtually, asking for videos of stunt routines. That, in itself, presented its own set of problems.
“Those coming into college often didn’t have partner stunting videos most likely [due to COVID-19],” cheer and mascot head coach Jaime Bernier said. “So it was just the videos of them doing stunts and cheers … and we created routines for them to have.”
Getting to have practices back in person was especially thrilling for the new members because they didn’t even know what they were missing out on, which is the community the Arizona cheer team brings for each other and for the Tucson fans.
“We are like a big family,” Manning said.
“Being a part of the atmosphere of Arizona Athletics is the best thing ever,” Vindiola said.
Being back wasn’t just about getting to see each other's faces. Bernier described how the athletic department has a clear plan for all of its teams and that they have many more phases to enter in order to get back to normal play.
“We have been limited because we haven’t been able to be in the gym, so we are doing as much as we can with body weight workouts and running to keep in shape,” Campman said.
The only thing normal right now, is the commitment the Wildcats have to getting back on their grind with 6 a.m. practices to prepare for the day they can be back cheering.
“It isn’t that difficult to wear a mask,” senior base Shane Robertson said. “We are limited by not being able to stunt right now because of [COVID-19]. We are still able to come together as a team and practice our material and workout together.”
Manning discussed how much she missed people recognizing their hard work. She especially remembers having little kids come up to them saying how they want to be just like them, so she is determined to keep working hard to get back and give back to the fans.
“I want to be a positive role model not only to my teammates, but to the younger generations that are trying to get to where I am,” Manning said.
The cheerleaders’ dedication to adapt to this change isn’t just for themselves, but for the people because they are banking on having the opportunity to show the community what they can do. They aren’t letting the changes tear down their spirit and are instead using it as a source of motivation to work hard for the day they do return and cheer “Bear Down."
“I am excited for them to be able to showcase their talents … at the forefront of things, they are extremely talented athletes, all of them,” Bernier said. “They got here because of their talent and they were chosen specifically because of their personality, so we are beefing up on that aspect of it, so I really want them to be able to stunt and show off their talents. I am waiting for that because … it’s the fun part. We enjoy it so much. We aren’t a competitive team. We aren’t here to put on a routine and go to nationals and win a trophy or a ring. We are here for the experience of it, so I just wish they could have their full experience, it's a new experience.”
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