Updated Monday, Nov. 11 at 3 p.m.
Florida Gators fans may notice cheerleaders waving their pom poms and shouting through megaphones during Saturday’s game against Jacksonville State but what they won’t see is them tumbling on the ground or being held or tossed high in the air due to a decision made by the school’s administration on Friday.
A handful of Florida cheerleaders took to Twitter on Friday evening to express their outrage after learning that the school’s marketing department will no longer allow them to stunt or tumble, effectively grounding them during all games, events and practices.
“If you’re wondering why the cheerleaders aren’t doing any thing at the games ask the UF marketing department. This is not fair,” wrote four-year cheerleader and senior captain Tarin Moses.
“This is unreal. This is unreal. This is not happening. This did not just happen,” added senior Morgan Palmer. “We know what we do is risky and that there is a ‘one in a million chance we might get hurt’ but that’s why we practice. #UngroundUFCheer”
“UF cheerleaders are no longer allowed to stunt and tumble..first we aren’t a real sport now we are too dangerous? #what #UngroundUFCheer,” wrote junior Elizabeth Garcia.
“It’s a sad day in UF cheer history that we will no longer have the privilege to perform stunts and tumbling for Gator fans #ungroundUFcheer,” concurred sophomore Haley Violetta.
The school, via senior associate athletics director Steve McClain, released a statement on Monday, Nov. 11, which read in part:
“Instead of waiting for a tragedy to occur, we are taking a proactive stance to protect the cheerleaders, who represent the University of Florida with enthusiasm and class, and allow them to lead cheers at Gator games for years to come. […]
“We understand that the modern day culture of cheerleading encourages acrobatic stunts which require tremendous athletic skill. The reality, however, is that the danger associated with these types of stunts is simply not worth the risk to the cheerleaders or to the University of Florida.”
Read the rest of this story…after the break!
Though the Gators not have released a statement detailing the decision, Moses indicated what was widely assumed, that Florida’s actions are a direct response to a member of the [Orlando] Magic Stunt Team falling on her head and being seriously injured during a home game on Tuesday.
Jamie Woode, 31, fractured three vertebrae and broke a rib when she “lost her footing and fell to the floor during a routine between the first and second quarter,” as described by the Associated Press. She was quickly stabilized by team doctors and paramedics before being carted off on a stretcher. Woode is expected to make a full recovery.
She is not the first (and certainly will not be the last) performer, on either a professional or collegiate level, to suffer an injury as a result of cheerleading or dancing.
On Nov. 25, 2011, then-senior Laura Adams, a second-year member of the UF cheerleading squad, tore her Achilles tendon while tumbling in the Stephen C. O’Connell Center and was helped off the court by teammates.
Florida’s cheerleading website notes that participants “practice 2-3 times per week and work on tumbling skills, stunting, pyramids, and basket tosses during each practice.” The cheerleaders also “follow an individualized work-out program developed by [a] strength and conditioning coach in the South End Zone Weight Room. Both teams condition 2 times per week during scheduled squad appointments.”
The Gators follow cheerleading guidelines set at a national level by the American Association of Chereleading Coaches & Administrators. Though not officially considered a varsity sport at UF, chereleading requires great athleticism and its participants work for years to be skilled enough to not only perform the maneuvers but do so safely and within the national guidelines.