Across the Region, Cheerleading Tryouts Go Virtual

Several area cheer squads are adapting and improvising to social distancing recommendations to keep their seasons on track

This+spring+the+TAHS+cheerleaders+%28pictured+above%29+as+well+as+several+other+high+school+squads+in+Blair+County%2C+decided+to+hold+virtual+tryouts+instead+of+cancelling+or+postponing+them+until+later+in+the+year.

Terry McCualley

This spring the TAHS cheerleaders (pictured above) as well as several other high school squads in Blair County, decided to hold virtual tryouts instead of cancelling or postponing them until later in the year.

Due to the coronavirus, athletes across the country have been forced to be creative in order to prepare for what will hopefully be the fall sports season. Makeshift at-home gyms, team zoom meetings, and remote workouts have become common for athletes of all sports.

For high school cheerleading squads across the region, May would normally be tryout season. But instead of canceling tryouts, many local cheerleading coaches are holding prerecorded video tryouts.

This has allowed squads to stay on schedule for what will hopefully be the 2020-2021 season while protecting themselves and the public from the spread of coronavirus.

Although it was very different then the usual tryouts, I felt that it was less stressful because I was able to retake my videos if I messed up”

— Tyrone Cheerleader Gracie Ball

Of course, with the tryouts being held virtually, there are unknowns.

“I fear that numbers will be down this upcoming season because usually, we have the school make announcements during the day but that can’t happen now,” said Bellwood Antis High School cheerleading coach Chrissy Shura

On the other hand, Altoona Area High School cheerleading coach Patty Sohmer has seen a higher turnout than usual this spring.

“I believe [the numbers are up] because they could try out when they had time. Scheduled tryouts often conflict with other activities such as track or dance,” says Sohmer.

One of the advantages for the athletes is that having tryouts virtually allows the cheerleaders to perfect their cheer, dance, and jumps on their own time and feel positive about their work.

“The pros were cheerleaders could learn the content on their own and at their own pace. They could send a perfected video when they felt confident about what they had learned,” says Tyrone Area High School cheerleading coach Amy Fleck.

Gracie Ball, a junior Tyrone cheerleader for the 2020-2021 squad agrees that the virtual tryouts were less stressful.

“Although it was very different then the usual tryouts, I felt that it was less stressful because I was able to retake my videos if I messed up,” said Ball.

This is unknown territory for everybody and we plan to make the best of the situation”

— Bellwood Coach Chrissy Shura

However, having virtual tryouts also comes with some unique challenges. By not having the ability to meet some of the applicants, it becomes more difficult to see the unique personalities of each athlete.

“The only challenge is not meeting the candidates in person. We had an email blast sent to all students in grades 8 through 11 inviting them to send me an email if they were interested,” says Sohmer.

Likewise, Tyrone also had challenges with not being able to provide instant feedback and critique the athletes like they would in an in-person tryout.

“For individuals with less cheering experience, I could not provide immediate feedback on proper motions, dance timing, or jumping techniques,” says Tyrone Area High School cheerleading coach Jess Anderson.

Virtual tryouts are something that is new for everyone, so improvements could be made in case the process was needed again. Some schools methods worked better than others.

“I think we have a great process that worked for our needs,” says Sohmer.

However, Fleck felt that a more in-depth description of the requirements should have been used.

“I think for varsity we should’ve been a little bit more specific on what to wear, how to look, and treated it more like an official tryout,” said Fleck.

Each school that has participated in having virtual cheerleading tryouts has their own thoughts and opinions on how it went.

Most feel that for the current situations having virtual cheerleading tryouts was the most beneficial way to stay on track with the regular-season schedule

“This is unknown territory for everybody and we plan to make the best of the situation,” says Shura.

Not being able to see all the cheerleaders together was the biggest drawback of virtual tryouts.

“Cheerleading is a group sport. One of my favorite parts of tryouts is the chance to view the group as a whole. Seeing individual videos did not allow me to view the group at the same time. I am looking forward to the opportunity where the whole group can come together,” says Anderson.

Tyrone cheerleader Lyndey Fleck, who will be captain of the cheerleading squad for the 2020-2021 season, believes that valuable connections were lost throughout the virtual cheerleading tryouts.

“Usually at tryouts, cheerleaders are able to make good eye contact with the judges and connect with them. I think it was a challenge to do that through a video and not being able to actually see the judges,” said Fleck.

This has forced high schools to be flexible and “get on board” with the use of technology for tryouts”

— Altoona Cheerleading Coach Patty Sohmer

Having virtual tryouts is a great way to push high schools into trying new modern-day technologies.

“In these circumstances, virtual tryouts are a great way of selecting your team. This has forced high schools to be flexible and “get on board” with the use of technology for tryouts,” says Sohmer.

The teams are starting the season off a little rocky with not being able to practice because of the coronavirus. This setback can bring stress and anxiety but Fleck is confident that they will be able to get caught up.

“I do feel like we are going to be a little bit behind but I think it’ll be easy to get caught up on once we are all together,” said Fleck.

At the end of the day, all that matters is staying positive and getting through these hard times.

“I know one thing for sure, I miss all the girls and coaches and can’t wait to see them! I’m optimistic that our season will be as normal as possible and we can cheer on our Blue Devils,” says Shura.