Elizabeth Cummings was in Jamaica on a spring break mission trip when she first heard of the school and sports cancellations due to the coronavirus. Immediately, she began thinking about what this would mean for UGA’s club cheer program.

“The second week of April, we go to NCA College Nationals, which we were supposed to compete at today [April 9],” said Cummings, vice president and two-year member of the team.

However, with sports on hold around the world, they were trapped inside their houses like the rest of us.

For the last seven years, the team has been evolving into a focused, organized program. Last year, they made the transition from a co-ed to an all-women team. 

Members of UGA’s competition cheer club in formation. (Photo Courtesy/UGA Club Cheerleading)

After tryouts at the end of August, they quickly began practices consisting of heavy conditioning, stunting and tumbling. They choreographed routines with their coaches at the Tumbling Academy of Cheer and Acro (TACA) gym in Athens. Through January, the team worked on perfecting their moves.

Before the outbreak, they scheduled events within the community, like their annual stunt clinic and canned food/school supply drive, and four competitions. But they only participated in two competitions.

“We competed at Furman University and [in] the collegiate division at Deep South Spirit at the end of February,” said Cummings.

The biggest event of all is nationals in Daytona, Florida. Of course, this was canceled in mid-March when everything began shutting down.

“[Nationals] are like a bonding/end of the year type of celebration,” said Quinque Williams, president and three-year member of the team. “You’re just so happy because you’re just surrounded by so many people that love the sport that you’re doing.” 

Coach Kenneth Khamphiphone, who has coached the team for the last two years, had high expectations for the women this year. 

“Overall, I hope that they don’t feel like their training went in vain,” said Khamphiphone.

Although he knows some women won’t take the floor again as it is their last season, he wants them to learn from this situation.

“I hope they can see the parallel. We have to make life adjustments if we’re ready or not,” said Khamphiphone. “Days before we had to get on the floor, we had to make adjustments. We had no choice in it, and we followed through. With this, it’s completely out of our control, but life kind of goes on and we have to make the course adjustments.”

He said he knows how difficult this cancelation must be for the women right now.

In light of everything that’s going on, I hope they know that they made me super proud of what they’ve done, and we didn’t have to go to nationals to prove that,” said Khamphiphone.

The captains are currently facing other difficulties with closing out the season. NCA is issuing full refunds of the money for Nationals, however they can’t access it yet.

“I believe that check was sent to Ramsey, but I can’t go check because Ramsey’s closed. That’s where our mailbox is housed,” said Cummings. 

Both women said they wanted their teammates to keep up not only their morale, but also their workout regimes. They acknowledge the difficulty in trying to stay in shape while at home.

“Sometimes I’ll have my little brother sit on my back while I’m doing some push-ups, he loves that,” said Williams.

Next season, Williams and Cummings both hope their teammates will return with an unbridled passion for the sport. They plan to embrace the “you never know” mentality by planning big team bonding events early in the year.

Like everyone else, both of these athletes can’t wait for things to get back to normal. They are, however, staying in good spirits even though their futures are certainly uncertain.

“You never know when your last practice is your last practice,” said Cummings.

DonA Traylor-Askew is a reporter for Grady Sports Bureau, which is part of the sports media program at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

 

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