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Cheer competitions on hold until contact sports get the green light

Posted at 7:06 AM, Feb 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-04 07:06:05-05

ROCKFORD, Mich. — Cheer teams across the state are waiting to compete.

Like basketball and wrestling, competitive cheer is considered a contact sport, and teams are only allowed to practice at a distance.

The Rockford Rams' competitive cheer team is getting ready for their first competition, whenever that time comes.

Senior Lauren Lewis says they're working on their back tucks, back handsprings, walkovers and splits, but they aren't sure when those skills are going to make it in front of the judges.

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"Yeah, sometimes you can think like, 'Oh, is there gonna be a competition? Are we gonna actually have the season?'"

Lewis and her team are determined to stay positive.

"But I think with the motivation, positivity, we can keep the season," Lewis said.

Her coaches say not having that goal makes it hard to stay focused.

"Yes, we want this season to happen for them in a way that can be safe, but I'm trying to keep them motivated when we really don't know how this outcome is going to turn out. It's been--it's been hard," head coach Melisa Milanowski said.

In the meantime, they're just grateful to have the opportunity to practice.

"When we bring them back to practice, and they're on that big blue floor, they can sort of forget about what's happening in the outside world for a little bit and it feels normal," said Milanowski.

Because competitive cheerleading is classified as a contact sport, athletes can't showcase their skills in front of the judges yet this year.

Anna Ramirez, the president of the Competitive Cheer Coaches Association of Michigan, argues that cheerleading is a unique contact sport.

"We only practice with our team, and we only compete with our team."

Recently, the association sent a letter to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Dr. Khaldun asking them to green light competition.

"We felt compelled to just let our voice be heard; that it was kind of--enough is enough. We have had so many push backs and have really tried to push our kids through this time and time again," Ramirez said. "We've just kind of reached that breaking point where it just doesn't seem like we can do this much longer."

She says they've been working with the MHSAA to ensure when teams compete it will be done safely.

"You know, all the way from locker rooms to spectators, to [the] warm-up area, you know, we spent a lot of time thinking through those things."

She stressed that instead of coming in contact with other teams, cheerleaders only come face to face with their own team.

The coaches and the association all agree that their cheerleaders are their top priority.

"I would just want to say that we are doing the best we can here with the knowledge and the information that we have. All of the coaches here, all of the administrators here, have the kids' best interest at heart, and we're just trying to give them a little bit of slice of normal in a time that's been exceptionally challenging, especially for our young athletes," said Milanowski.

Right now, restrictions for winter contact sports are in place until Feb. 21.

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