Thinking Outside the Gym

Cheerleading team indicates a lack of available practice space


Rachel Schweitzer, Staff Writer

Western Albemarle has worked to expand our athletic resources, including the construction of an auxiliary gym, but this is not enough to provide for all teams.

“Having the two gyms is really helpful,” cheerleader Tiffany Smith says, “but still, in the end, it’s not enough space.”

Indoor sports such as Volleyball and basketball teams have priority over the gyms, leaving other teams, such as the cheerleading squad, to resort to practicing elsewhere. Although the auxiliary gym is open for the cheerleaders to use during the fall season, they have often had to relocate their practice whenever outside conditions were unsuitable for other teams. However, the gym is the only suitable place for the cheerleaders to practice. Without high ceilings and their mats, the team could not advance in stunting.

The cheerleaders have often had to improvise in order to find a place with enough space to practice. Without high ceilings it is impossible to do extensions (a stunt in which someone is fully extended in the air, standing in their teammates’ hands), which has halted the team’s progress in stunting.

“The team has had to practice outside, in the cafe, choir room, and the hallways,” Smith adds, “not to mention the fact that our supplies we need, such as our mats, are not easily portable, and we have to move those constantly to other places, causing us to waste time when we could be practicing.”

Just recently the cheerleaders resorted to practicing in the auditorium, interfering with the auditions for the Spring musical. The situation was not ideal for either group. Additionally, the space is potentially dangerous when stunting if someone were to fall on the rows of chairs. Evidently, an alternative solution needs to be found.

Cheerleaders also struggles to use the weight room, as the time schedules for each team varies. Realistically, each team should be able to use the resources provided by the school, yet this has proved to be an insurmountable feat.

“They’re not respectful of our time in there either,” Coach Stutsman says, “but they don’t understand what strength it takes to be able to do those stunts.”

This poses a growing problem, as the school population continues to expand and out of season sports begin to practice year round. Cheer is a year-round sport and needs to practice throughout the school year, yet out of season practices take up the space previously allotted to the group.

Stutsman has coached the cheerleading team for the past nine years and says they have always faced difficulty finding space to practice.

“It’s very frustrating,” Stutsman says, “they feel like all cheerleaders do is jump around and do cheers, but we also do stunting. Mr. Heon understands my frustration and he’s very respectful of that. He tries not to bump us unless he has to. But, the new thing with out of season practices is a huge problem, and I don’t feel that people who are out of season respect those that are in season.”

She agrees that football and volleyball were very accommodating during the fall practice time, and that the team does not mind sharing the gym, but the problem comes when other sports not in season want to take over the space and cut through their practice.

At another school Stutsman coached at, the team was able to practice in the wrestling gym,  Though Western cheerleaders were previously allowed to use the wrestling room to practice, the wrestling team now practices ten months out of the year and requires the space year round.

“I think that there needs to be a little more regulation on out of season practices and where they can be. I think that would help us and and other sports,” Coach Stutsman adds.

Western has many sports teams and after school activities, and it is difficult to find space for them all, but it is clear that more space is required for sports teams to use.

Smith says, “It’s really hard to decide for the school what should be done but, as an obvious answer, it just needs more room.”