Lockdown sports series: Cheerleading

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By Lauren Dean, Third Year, Neuroscience

Over the coming weeks, Epigram Sport has been looking at how several University sports clubs have adapted to life in lockdown. In the sixth article of the series, the Bristol Jets cheerleading team detail how they have been adapting to a contactless world of sport.

For a sport whose very foundation heavily relies on close physical contact, the pandemic has flipped cheerleading on its head (excuse the pun).

Picture a gymnasium and fill it with over 20 athletes. Watch as they throw each other in the air, performing extravagant tricks and pulling extraordinary stunts, and have them plummet to the ground to be caught safely by their teammates.

In March, teams at Bristol Jets were faced with a multitude of difficult decisions | Bristol Jets

Try and picture this scene without physical contact, or even close proximity. Impractical and impossible are just a couple of the words that spring to mind. Nonetheless, Bristol Jets Cheerleading Squad are making significant progress every day to ensure training can continue in the most optimistic and safe manner.

In March, teams at Bristol Jets were faced with a multitude of difficult decisions as the pandemic began to unfold right in the midst of their competition season.

The three-week period they had spent all year training incredibly hard for, began preparing for the previous summer, and (quite literally) poured blood, sweat and tears into, was falling to pieces in front of them. Heart-breaking would be an understatement.

Torn between heads and hearts, the season was cut short and all teams bar one made the devastating decision not to compete in the final event.

Level 3 braved the uncertain environment and competed at BCA Cheer & Dance, where they won their division and were awarded a National title for yet another consecutive year.

Bristol Jets Cheerleading Squad are making significant progress ensure training can continue in safest way | Bristol Jets

Although miles apart, team spirit never dwindled. Hosting end-of-season events online maintained their strong family bond, and the obstacle of physical isolation was overcome.

The newly elected committee, having met for the first time over Zoom, began working on how to keep up enthusiasm in true cheerleader style.

Coach Mychael held virtual tumble drill classes, and a ‘Stretch With Me’ series was produced by members Macy Cescatti and Freya Selman.

In addition, the Jets continued working on physical fitness by collectively running, walking or cycling the distance to Croatia, where their annual tour should have been enjoyed.

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Today we're launching a fundraiser for Caring in Bristol, a charity that helps the homeless in Bristol. They not only provide shelters and food, but also run a number of projects to help vulnerable people and create lasting change. Over the last couple of months the charity has faced so many challenges due to COVID-19, and is in desperate need of resources in order to continue their incredible work.Therefore, we wanted to help them out. With our annual tour cancelled this year, we’re asking all of our Jets to collectively run, walk and cycle the 1,896km from Bristol to Croatia instead. If everyone in the club contributes, we can easily make it there! While you're doing so, please ask your friends and family to sponsor us at this link: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/bristol-jets-cheerleading-uob Don’t forget to share your progress with us by sending photos or tagging @bristoljets! You can read more about what Caring in Bristol does and their response to the current crisis here: https://caringinbristol.co.uk/

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The new Team Captains also compiled a Skills Ladder accompanied with detailed tutorial videos, to allow freshers to begin working on valuable cheer skills.

Perhaps most importantly, the committee have been dedicated to organising meticulous health & safety measures upon the return to training.

Following guidance from SportCheer England, risk mitigations will be enforced at all times. Ever-changing rules means that uncertainty still remains regarding what this year has in store, but Jets remain confident that the season will be successful, and hopeful for the future of cheer.

Featured: Bristol Jets


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