In a regular school year, middle school cheerleaders do not have to usually wonder if a game they are scheduled to cheer at could be canceled on a whim over and over again. But in the time of a global pandemic, the unexpected is expected — and perhaps that’s all the more reason for pomp and pep to break through the airwaves.

For Fair Play’s middle school cheerleading squad this school year — which consisted of two cheerleaders, seventh graders Simmona Chance and Marisa Tindle — they did not seem to let the hecticness get in the way for their desire to cheer on their classmates and audiences. 

Fair Play’s cheerleading coach Melony Harris marked this year as her seventh in coaching cheerleading, but she said this year has “definitely been different” than normal due to COVID-19 and MSHSAA guidelines switching up the regular flow. 

“One of the other things that’s different is the fact that during some of the time of our practices and when games were supposed to occur, we had a quarantine of the entire seventh and eighth grade class,” Harris said. “So we weren’t able to practice or play games during that time.”

Additionally, Harris said she thinks she would have had cheerleaders this year had it not been for COVID-19 because online-only students cannot participate in sports. 

But, Harris said, this has still been a good cheer season.

“I think Simmona and Marisa are really good friends anyway, and they just kind of rolled with whatever we had to do,” Harris said. “Some students might have complained about the fact that we didn’t have a game that day, or that we weren’t able to practice, but they kind of rolled with it and [said] ‘Okay, whatever we need to do.’”

Harris said it was a neat thing to see and viewed her cheerleaders as mature and understanding of the COVID-19 situation. 

“They want to cheer,” Harris said. “Even though we couldn’t practice the whole time, we got our 14 practices in that we needed before we had our first game.”

Harris estimated she had to remake her practice schedule and game schedule at least four times; after the fourth time, she decided to keep it on a rolling basis and keep their parents updated, and Simmona and Marisa were still on board.

“At one point, we came on a Monday and we had a game that night,” Harris said. “And not even before noon, they canceled it out. I felt so bad … This year, you just never know what’s going to get thrown at you.”

Additionally, Harris said, the middle school basketball players dealt with the same scenario, but they seemed to exhibit maturity and grace, as well. 

The first game Simmona and Marisa were able to cheer at was on Oct. 8. 

“It was really exciting,” Harris said, thinking back. “As a coach, I’m always nervous for my cheerleaders anyway on the first few games just because it’s new to them, and I want them to do well, and they want to do well.”

“I think we were just excited about the fact that we got to cheer,” Harris added. “It was an away game, but they would have cheered at a home game first. That was exciting, too, because they got to ride on a bus to get to an away game.”

Thinking of the season’s highlights, Harris said watching the girls blossom into cheerleaders as if “they have done it all their life” was a major standout. 

“I’ve never had cheerleaders that picked up the cheers as great as they have,” Harris said. “Definitely a proud moment.”

Simmona provided her input on her first cheer season, as well.

“The season was different, of course, because of corona,” Simmona said. “We had a couple of games and they went by pretty fast.”

Simmona said the last game of the season that she and Marisa were scheduled to cheer at was canceled — and the cancelation was not due to the coronavirus, but because of a “water leak.”

Being just one of two cheerleaders, Simmona said she felt as if the Fair Play community was supportive of her. 

Regarding her plans for next year’s cheer season, she said she plans on joining the team again.

“I hope there’s a lot more games,” Simmona added.

Simmona said in 20 years, when she thinks back on the year of 2020, she will remember that this was the year she “got to do cheerleading for the first time.”

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