Amid COVID-19, virtual cheerleading becomes the new norm

Gyms are empty across the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and that includes a local cheer gym.

Amid COVID-19, virtual cheerleading becomes the new norm

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Gyms are empty across the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and that includes a local cheer gym. The Savannah Sharks are building their next squad- virtually.

Like many of us are adjusting to working from home or doing online classes, athletes are training virtually too.

The Sharks gym is much quieter these days. Just one cheerleader and two coaches in at a time, the rest of the squad learning the routines and doing the conditioning from their homes.

“We knew we had to reinvent ourselves, and keep our kids engaged, so we went into the virtual world,” explained gym owner, Megan Yarbrough.

The Sharks were coming off a strong showing at the CheerSport National Championships, and had received a bid to Worlds, the highest level of competition for all-star cheerleaders. The competition hasn’t officially been cancelled at this point.

“I like to keep dreaming every night that we’re going to have Worlds, but I know the reality is a harsh reality, and if the Olympics were cancelled, Worlds is most likely going to get cancelled," Yarbrough said.

While the cheerleaders can’t do all their stunting and tumbling work from home, the squad is challenging themselves in new ways.

“I’m getting to do things with the teams that I wouldn’t necessarily have the time to do in a two-hour practice," said Head Coach Timothy Grant-Bryant. "We’re now spending an entire two hours with strength, and conditioning and flexibility, you know? That’s going to mean the world of a difference to every athlete in our program.”

The Sharks hoped for a solid showing in Orlando next weekend to send off their seniors. A pandemic certainly isn’t the ending they had planned. The team held a drive-through banquet to celebrate their accomplishments, and now they’re looking forward to coming back stronger.

“I need to be ready to work my butt off, and have to work for next season, because we have to go to Worlds next year since we didn’t get to go this year,” said Sharks Cheerleader Mya Morrison.

The staff added that they are proud of how the team has stepped up and adapted to online schooling and workouts during this difficult time.

The Sharks are also preparing for their try-outs next week, which for the first time, will happen through a computer screen.

“This is our tenth season, and it’s our first ever virtual try-outs. We have an online registration, and last year we had over 250 traveling all-stars, and so far, we have about 150 kids registered for the virtual try-outs," Yarbrough added "Even though they don’t have the safety equipment at home, we’re not going to ask them to do running tumbling passes.”

In addition to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, the Sharks family was hit with loss this week. Several cheerleaders travel to Savannah from the Lowcountry for cheer, and lost family members to Monday’s devastating tornadoes. They said their cheer family is rallying around their teammates during this time.

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