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Thursday, Apr. 24, 2014

Cheerleaders, sponsors not too worried about MSHSAA changes

Sunday, June 18, 2006

(Photo)
East Prairie High School cheerleaders practice a dance.
SIKESTON -- High school cheerleaders in Missouri were sidelined last week when the Missouri State High School Activities Association announced it soon wouldn't be sanctioning state competitions anymore.

But, in typical cheerleading fashion, local cheerleaders and their coaches are taking a positive approach to the situation and bouncing back in perfect form.

"We really don't have any concerns (with the change)," said Kasey Cogdill, cheerleading co-sponsor at East Prairie High School. "It shouldn't hurt us, and actually it will allow us to go to more competitions."

As of July 1, MSHSAA will no longer sanction cheerleaders to take part in regional or state competitions. The association will maintain jurisdiction over sideline cheerleading at school athletic events. Squads that want to compete must do so as a club, which means athletes must pay for their own equipment, insurance, coaches and other costs.

The decision means the activities association no longer will provide catastrophic liability insurance to cover accidents during practices for or performances at competitions. The association will continue catastrophic coverage for sideline cheering.

Sikeston Senior High head cheerleading sponsor Tricia Keefer said as of late last week, the school hadn't really made any officials decisions yet.

"I really expect the Sikeston cheerleaders to go on as we've always gone and to be able to keep doing everything we've done in the past," Keefer said.

In the last nine years, Sikeston Senior High cheerleaders have placed in the top three every year, Keefer said of the school's cheerleading success.

The regional and state competitions will still have full support by the Missouri Cheerleading Coaches Association like it always has, said Keefer, who is a member of the organization.

Keefer said what MSHSAA's announcement means is no longer will there be a MSHSAA by-law that addresses competitions; it only governs sideline cheering, games, rules, etc.

Keefer and other cheerleading coaches in the area, attended a rules meeting last week in Cape Girardeau, but they have yet to receive their new rule books for the upcoming season, Keefer said.

"Some (schools) were looking for ways to make it work, and hopefully that's what we're going to do. This is not a negative or a positive; there are just changes that need to be addressed," Keefer said.

However, Keefer said she's concerned participation at the state level will decrease as a result of schools opting not to support their cheerleading squads as club activities or schools opting to participate in events other than the state competition.

"A coach always worries about what changes will do to the program, but I look for full support from the district and whatever changes we need to make. They've always supported the girls, and I look for them to continue to do that," Keefer said.

Davine Davis, assistant executive director of MSHSAA in Columbia, said so far feedback from schools, coaches, cheerleaders and parents has been mixed. "Some are for it. Some like it. Some are hesitant about the change. And some decisions will have to be made locally," Davis said.

Chrisi Hodges, New Madrid County Central High School varsity cheerleading coach, said she was aware months ago the changes could occur and went to the school's athletic director and principal to form a plan.

"Our athletic director, Diane Fowler, was very supportive. She knew we still wanted to compete. We wanted to know if something happened, we had a policy," Hodges said.

As a result, NMCC's insurance company came up with a policy specifically for cheerleaders to be able to compete at both regional and state levels, Hodges said.

"The cheerleaders, to be honest, didn't know anything about it," Hodges said.

But cheerleaders do know what it's like to compete, especially at the state level -- an experience Rachel Jordan, a cheerleader at New Madrid County Central, described as "adrenaline-pumping."

"It's something that we look forward to every year and start thinking about again when we leave Hearnes Stadium (after the competition)," said Jordan, a senior cheerleader at New Madrid County Central High School.

And for male cheerleader Nick Darter, a senior at New Madrid County Central, competing at state competitions can mean scholarships for college, he said.

Sikeston head cheerleader and senior Danielle Harper also said her squad hasn't discussed the changes. Like most other cheerleading squads across the state, they're too busy practicing for upcoming competitions -- whether it be at the state level or the national.

"I think it's good in some ways and bad in other," Harper said. "But this will allow us to go and compete anywhere."