A new kind of cheer for Red Devils
CHS tumbling into competitive cheer.
The Clinton High School Cheer Team is in its first year of competitive cheer, but according to Head Competitive Cheer Coach Tia McFadden, joining competitive cheer has been a long time coming for the Red Devils.
McFadden said when Louie Alexander came in as Athletic Director, he also expressed interest in making the program happen. From there, McFadden and Alexander merged their ideas together, came up with a proposal that was presented to the Board, and got the approval to move forward.
From there, McFadden began preparing the team for what they could expect from a competitive cheer competition.
“The first thing I did when I knew we were going to do competition, I showed the team what it is like because, again, this is brand new. Some of them have never seen that before. I showed them examples of what winning routines look like and just got them excited about the season,” she said. “Then we took the things that we could do with the restrictions, tumbling and jumps basically while they’re in Phase One. We took those elements and practiced those things. It was also very hard because we could only do a certain amount of people in each group. So I had to try to make our schedule a little bit different. Also want to thank John Gardner. He definitely helped me during the summer, helping me with groups and things like that.”
Choreographer John Alexander also stepped in to prepare the team for the competition season.
“He’s been very instrumental in helping me create a routine for the team so they can be ready,” McFadden said.
Being ready is key because according to McFadden, there is much more to competitive cheer than smiling, waving and cheering.
“The actual routines in competitive cheer consist of pyramids, tumbling, jumps – also standing and running tumbling. You do a mini cheer in between, but it’s all physical in the routine and there’s nothing that you’ll see in terms of Fridays where typically they’re doing band chants and things like that” she said.
With the competitive cheer program in full swing, unlike other sports, the team is practicing all week leading up to Friday nights followed by competition on Saturday.
McFadden said typically they would already be competing, but COVID-19 has pushed back the schedule.
“Because of that we are competing, supposedly, in October and then Qualifers will come up at the beginning of December and then State will be the week after that,” she said.
COVID also affected the number of athletes who were interested in competitive cheer, mainly parents who have taken their children out of school to do virtual learning.
“Parents just don’t want them to be around individuals and I understand that, so that has been difficult. Also, the South Carolina High School League has put restrictions on us because we are a high risk sport because we are full contact at all times. We’ve had a lot of restrictions on what we can and cannot do so it’s been very hard to build up this program and also prepare them for the season with all these restrictions,” McFadden added.
One of those restrictions is not stunting with masks or gaiters.
“We stunt for about 15 minutes at a time and then we separate. Whenever we’re marking stunts or we’re talking out stunts, I have the girls spread out so we’re not in each others face. They’re not allowed to count while they’re in a stunt so I’m the one that’s counting. We are trying to do those type of things,” McFadden said. “When we take water breaks we’re always six feet apart. Whenever they’re not being physically active, they have to have some kind of mask or gaiter on.”
Despite COVID-19 and the growing pains that come with a new program, McFadden’s main goal is to set the team up for something greater – college. A former college cheerleader, McFadden knows what it takes to be an athlete in college and wants to set her team up for success upon graduating high school.
“One thing that I’ve talked to the team about a lot, and they all agreed, we are starting a tradition and leaving a legacy. So long after they’re gone, I want the next group that comes in to understand what this program is all about and I also want more athletes to be interested in competition because it is something new. At times people fear things they know nothing about so I’m hoping that this year gives them a chance to actually prove what competitive cheer is all about for the program and also the school – we want to represent the school well.