Cheerleading tryouts go virtual

During+last+year%27s+football+season%2C+the+cheerleaders+perform+a+routine+on+the+side+of+the+field.+The+cheerleaders+go+to+both+the+away+and+home+games.+

Sonia Yost

During last year's football season, the cheerleaders perform a routine on the side of the field. The cheerleaders go to both the away and home games.

As a result of the ongoing coronavirus, the cheerleaders and coaches have taken precautions regarding tryouts for next year’s squad. 

Traditionally, cheerleading tryouts are held live in front of the coaches who then judge how each cheerleader did. 

With the widespread COVID-19, prociedures needed to change and this year each cheerleader must send in a video of herself doing the cheer the coaches assigned. The deadline for the cheer videos is April 30. 

“With social distancing taking effect prior to cheer tryouts, we needed to find an alternative way to conduct tryouts this year. Fortunately, technology has provided an easy solution for this. We developed a cheer Google Classroom with tryout information and material for the candidates to learn. They will learn the cheer and dance and submit videos of them as well as a toe touch for evaluation.  The coaches will independently score each candidate, and the scores will be combined. The team will be selected from these scores. The difference is that we will not get to meet the girls personally or be able to evaluate their tumbling or stunting skills. We are using a questionnaire to help us evaluate the potential of the candidates in those areas. Virtual tryouts are not a new concept. Colleges have been having cheer candidates submit videos for years,” head cheerleading coach Patricia Sohmer said. 

If in-person tryouts could be held, the senior cheerleaders would teach the cheer routines. 

“If it would have been in-person tryouts, the senior cheerleaders teach the cheer and dance in one day. Then, the girls come back the next day to be judged by the coaches,” assistant coach Julie Schmoke said. 

According to assistant coach Autumn Barry-Kyle, each candidate will submit three different videos. 

“Candidates trying out will be submitting three different videos: a cheer, a dance and a toe touch. We posted the cheer and dance on a Google Classroom that we created,” Barry-Kyle said. 

The candidates will submit a questionnaire along with the videos. 

“Each candidate will submit a questionnaire, a video of a cheer learned from a posted video, a video of a dance learned from a posted video and a video of a toe touch. The coaches will each individually score each video and the scores from the coaches will be combined. The team will be selected from those scores with consideration of the questionnaire included. We need a balanced team with team members filling all stunting positions. The questionnaire will help us with that,” Sohmer said. 

Virtual tryouts have not made a difference in signups. 

“Actually, we had the administration send an email to every student in grades eight through 11 so that all students were aware of the tryouts. We also posted the announcement on Skyward. We have had almost 60 candidates join the cheer Google Classroom. This is at least average, if not high, for the number of candidates in a normal year. So we are not at all concerned about the participation. We are actually quite pleased at the number of students interested,” Sohmer said.

“I don’t think there has been any effect on the number of candidates signed up. We have had a great response so far and are still two weeks out from the deadline,” Barry-Kyle said.

Current juniors Piper Vallei and Chastity Brunner will have to learn the new dances and cheers by themselves. 

“It’s all online this year. So we won’t have stunt groups for tryouts. Instead of learning the dance and cheer in person, we will learn everything from a video on Google Classroom. I think they had a great idea by using Google Classroom! I’m excited to see how my senior year will go,” Brunner said.

“It’s online so we have to learn everything by ourselves,” Vallei said.

Virtual tryouts for Brunner and Vallei will differ from their usual in-person tryouts.

“It will be harder and easier because we can learn it on our own time which is good since we have a due date of April 30. If it was in person, we’d all be together and talk about what we don’t understand etc.,” Vallei said.

“We won’t be able to entirely bond with each other. Usually in tryouts we learn each other’s names and form a friendship. This year we won’t get to know the people trying out. We’ll just find out when it is posted,” Brunner said.

Brunner and Vallei understand that tryouts have to be like this rather than in person. 

“I am okay with it [virtual tryouts]. The circumstances we are under chose that way for us, so I can’t really complain about it at all. It is the best for us right now,” Vallei said.

“I can’t wait for virtual tryouts. It will be an adjustment, but I can’t wait to meet the new team when we can go back. I can’t wait for my senior year. I think it will be a new experience adding ninth grade to the mix. Our coaches are also amazing! I’ve had them all as my teachers, and they are all amazing people who will want what’s best for the team,” Brunner said.

Sohmer, Barry-Kyle and Schmoke are looking for similar things when judging the tryout videos.

“We are looking for girls with sharp motions and lots of school spirit,” Schmoke said.

“We will be looking at sharpness with motions, facials, showmanship and voice,” Barry-Kyle said.

“Probably first and foremost would be the less tangible showmanship. Are the candidates enthusiastic, have spirit, can motivate a crowd, make eye contact and draw fans in?  With the cheer and dance, we would be looking for sharp, clean motions, loud and clear voices with good inflection and knowledge of the cheer and dance. For the toe touch, we would look for height and extension and a clean landing,” Sohmer said.