KEEPING THE SPIRIT ALIVE
The most important part of being a cheerleader is raising school spirit and supporting the athletes, school and community. While we all understand the importance of health and safety during this time, it doesn’t entirely take away the hurt of losing the opportunity to compete, participate and even take part in what previously was a normal everyday life routine.
“Our seniors are heartbroken as they come to terms with the fact their senior year will be completely transformed,” said Atrisco Heritage cheer coach Leticia Montano. “We, as a coaching staff, are heartbroken because we will never have them on our mats again. This has been difficult to process because these athletes were extraordinary and their dedication, selflessness, talent, and work ethic will never be forgotten.”
“It was unbelievable, it was heartbreaking,” said Atrisco Heritage senior Aaliyah Bailey regarding the cancellation of the 2020 State Spirit Championships along with all spring sports.
“At first, I was in a state of shock and speechless and asked ‘Is this even real?’,” added senior Jairo Hernandez, who is also a member of the Atrisco Heritage cheer squad. “I saw all my teammates talking in the group chat that the cancellation is actually happening. I felt bad for all other sports too, so many sports gone.”
Through the disappointment and heartache, Aaliyah, Jairo and the rest of their team are finding ways to remain connected. To help maintain their bond and lift spirits within their community, the Atrisco Heritage cheer squad is taking small steps to make a big difference. “We use an App called BAND to communicate on a regular basis with our entire program which includes 56 athletes,” said Montano. They use the App to check in on their athletes to make sure they are doing alright in this uncertain time.
“I definitely have to be a role model to spread positivity with everything that’s going on,” said Aailiyah. “Social media is a great way to do that.”
Previous bonding through in-person practice and events is now replaced with virtual online activities like movie parties, chat rooms, Zoom meetings and suggested workout routines.
“Our athletes need resources and support,” said Montano. “We know exercise is so important to a person’s well-being and mental health. When you are an athlete working out on a regular basis and then you suddenly stop, it really affects a lot of moods and energy.”
“Many of our athletes expressed feeling ‘blue’ and loss of energy without cheer and not having the structured, predictable, positive environment has been challenging,” Montano added. “We have provided them with at-home workouts in an effort to keep their activity level up. We have scheduled online meetings and will do virtual Dance Fit with them as well. Last night, we had a NetFlix Party scheduled where we watched a movie ‘together’ but in the safety of our own homes.”
Aaliyah says cheerleading helped her gain confidence to become a leader in her community. Now, more than ever, is a time for those qualities to shine. “I definitely have to be a role model to spread positivity with everything that’s going on,” she said. “Cheerleading allowed me to become mentally strong and to be able to know how to give out my energy to others.”
Jairo, also a senior, agrees that the skills he learned with his cheer squad can assist in uplifting others. “I’m talking with people who are down and let them know we’ll get through this,” he said. His message to those returning to school next season is to seize the day. “Appreciate every single practice because you never know when it ends early,” he said. “Take advantage of it, time goes by fast.”
“A message I would have for those returning is to continue striving,” Aaliyah added. “I hope they continue with their passion for this sport and don’t give up.”
“We will continue to connect with our athletes and will continue to lift their spirits with the same integrity and passion they have given to our community season after season, year after year,” Montano said. “This is a difficult time for everyone, and we understand it transcends beyond cheer. However, we felt it was important to emphasize that just because our season abruptly stopped doesn’t mean we stop coaching, supporting, and providing tools for our youth to persevere despite challenges and times of crisis.”