Dalton High School seniors Melanie Gerber and Jordyn Miller, at right, lead the varsity cheerleading squad during a basketball game this season. (PHOTOS BY LISA McGINTY
PHOTO BY LISA McGINTY | LMc Photography
Dalton senior Sydney Christian back flips at a basketball game this season.
DALTON No pep rallies. Masks at the ready. No competitions.
The high school cheerleading experience continues to be much different this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but many life lessons are being learned, said Dalton’s cheerleading coach Briana Reed.
“Dalton High School cheerleading has looked a lot different this year; during the fall and now during the winter,” Reed said in an email. “The girls have embraced the opportunities that they have been given. It is a very unique experience and something I hope we never have to endure again. However, as a teacher and coach, I feel that there have been many life lessons involved; overcoming adversity, being flexible, adapting to change, and truthfully being present in the moments that you are given.”
There was so much uncertainty this year, Reed noted.
Because of the health crisis, safety protocols included junior varsity cheerleaders only cheered at home games during football season. During football games, cheerleaders wore masks entering and exiting the stadium, as well as during halftime. While varsity cheerleaders were allowed to travel, the marching band did not.
“This was very different for the girls as we rehearse band dances during summer practices, but had minimal opportunities to perform them in front of the crowd,” Reed said.
The cheerleaders were not able to have pep rallies, and the homecoming pep rally is typically the best, Reed wrote.
“Hopeful is a word that I have used several times this year,” Reed wrote in the email. “I am very hopeful that 2021 brings good news and positive changes for the girls. I am aware of the circumstances and I continue to embrace the opportunities the girls are given, rather than focus on what they are not. It is a challenging time, this is without a doubt. My hope is that Fall of 2021 presents some “normalcy” for our students and our student athletes.”
So far, for basketball season, all cheerleaders are unable to travel, Reed said. She explained that the girls cheer four on each side of the basket when they normally cheer as a group of eight, side-by-side.
“Normally the JV and varsity squads do a quarter cheer between the varsity third and fourth quarter and throw out shirts,” Reed wrote. “This year, we will do this during the JV and the varsity game as the squads cannot be in the gym at the same time.”
The girls are still able to do their “Hello Cheer” and “Starting 5” together.
“As a cheerleading squad, we have had our ups and downs,” Reed wrote. “We have overcome hard conversations, tears and unfortunate circumstances. However, I do believe that these girls have learned a valuable lesson or two. It may not be clear now, but later down the road, they can look back and reveal their strength, dedication, and commitment to overcoming this situation. We are a close-knit group. It has definitely been a challenging year to keep the normal “spirit” alive.”
The basketball squad consists of six seniors: Sydney Christian, Melanie Gerber, Abigail Hostetler, Jordyn Miller, Landree Siders and Abbi Snyder. “These six girls bring the energy to each and every practice,” Reed said. “I recognize their efforts and appreciate their spirit. As their coach, I am looking forward to watching them this basketball season.”
Reed and Amanda Novak have coached together the past five years and this will be the second group they see the entire way through. “Are these times ideal? Absolutely not,” Reed said. “However, the girls we have in the program are taking every opportunity to be present and enjoy what they are given.”
In their own words
Dalton’s senior cheerleaders shared how this year has been different and they also offer some words of advice and good wishes to cheer up the community this holiday season: