A recent cheerleading injury has prompted the NCAA to take a stand. Some feel their newly imposed restrictions may be over-the-top.
The sports world would be a different place without cheerleaders. At halftime and game delays crowds would be lost and unsure of what to do. Cheerleaders help raise the spirits of the masses with their clapping hands and human pyramids, all while leading the crowds in a monotonous chant, “Together, we are strong, and can recite cleverly worded rhymes.”
But spectators may have to learn to do without. Not entirely without, but recently the NCAA has placed restrictions on collegiate cheerleading squads; and team spirit may never be as high as it once was.
During the Missouri Valley Conference Championship between Southern Illinois University and Bradley University, cheerleader Kristi Yamaoka fell from a 15-foot pyramid and received a head wound requiring a stretcher to carry her off the court.
The crowd was hushed with worry, until she began to cheer again from the stretcher, which some at first believed was a result of the fall.
“Honestly, I thought she was having a back spasm,” said Sam Gibson, a sophomore history major.
“My dad works in a hospital, and I’ve seen violent reactions from back injuries before. That certainly could have been one.”
In fact, she was showcasing the team spirit that had been getting everyone up for the game until, of course, the head trauma.
But as the band played the Southern Illinois fight song and Yamaoka demonstrated the guts that got her to the top of the pyramid (and then the bottom), there was truly a sense of awe all throughout the court.
Then word came from upstairs: no more tall pyramids, said the NCAA, and for that matter, no more tossing people without mats, either. At least the NCAA ordered it after the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators had ordered it.
This occurred because the AACCA has no actual power to enforce things.
These jarring new regulations could not have come at a worse time for our nation’s cheerleading squads because college basketball’s most critical games in the NCAA Tournament took place. However, this is not the first time the issue has come up.
“Well, even before the accident at the Missouri Conference Championship the NCAA put restrictions on cheerleading teams because of previous accidents,” said Temple cheerleader Kristin La Barca, a freshman business major.
“We were not allowed to do flipping basket tosses on the hardwood floor at basketball games,” she said.
“Recently, at the Atlantic Ten Conference Tournament, they put restrictions that we were not allowed to do pyramids two-and-a-half high, or do any sort of basket toss at all because of the accident in Missouri,” La Barca said. “Before the restrictions, we were allowed to do all of these things because there weren’t set rules that the NCAA had for the cheerleaders.”
This was an isolated incident, and although it may not please the crowds, the NCAA acted as they saw fit. But La Barca said the risk of injury is nothing new in cheerleading.
“Cheerleading accidents happen all the time,” La Barca added. “Maybe not as severe as what happened in Missouri, but they happen at least once a practice.”
As everything settles down and returns to normal in the cheerleading world (except for the new rules), fans will have to get used to the different atmosphere at games.
Justin Klugh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.