With no spectators at games, ASU's cheerleaders look ahead to next year

Pac-12's decision to not include fans in upcoming games includes cheerleaders, still, the squad looks ahead for future games and community events

The Pac-12 announced on Sept. 24 the football season would be allowed to begin on Nov. 6, no fans will be allowed in any Pac-12 stadium until 2021. This decision includes cheerleaders, mascots and band members. 

“These decisions were made in the interest of health and safety and we plan to revisit them to determine if any changes are warranted after the New Year,” a Pac-12 spokesperson said. “The decision reflects our CEO Group's goal to reduce the number of people around stadiums, in the stands and on the sidelines as much as possible in the interest of health and safety.

"Unfortunately, that means that fans and other aspects of game day that we love have to be curtailed for now.”

Spirit Squad head coach Bianca Caryl told her team to stay ready for the upcoming basketball and volleyball seasons. No statement regarding the squad's participation during these seasons has been made as of right now.

“We are prepared and ready for when we can come back and cheer on our fellow Sun Devils,” Caryl said.

Sept. 28 marked the beginning of a three-practices-a-week schedule for the spirit squad. On Mondays and Fridays, the team holds practices in person. On Wednesdays, practices take place via Zoom. 

"This will be the schedule going forward until protocols change," Caryl said.

Monday practices will include whole team practices with both the cheerleaders and dance teams practicing together.  Practices with the University's marching band will be held on Wednesday, during a Zoom practice, Caryl said. On Fridays, both the cheerleaders and dance team will practice on their own. 

Practices have been at a multitude of locations since the re-start of in-person practices, including the new lacrosse fields and the Verde Dickey Dome.  

Spirit squad members had been practicing virtually on Zoom since the University and its sports seasons shut down in early March. Spirit Squad tryouts were also held over Zoom during the summer. 

According to Coach Caryl, more people tried out for the spirit squad this year. 

“Since we had tryouts virtually, people wanting to audition didn’t have to fly out to Arizona to come to try out,” Caryl said. 

The pandemic took away the spirit squad's presence on the sidelines for 2020. But cheering at the games wasn't the only event taken away from the squad this year. 

Before the pandemic, spirit squad team members participated in various public events, with appearances ranging from nursing home visits to stopping at the Adidas headquarters in Portland.

"It's really fun to travel across the country and go to places where you never thought you'd go to," junior dance team member Drea DeGrate said.

Caryl said one of her favorite events is the spirit squad’s “Junior Spirit Squad Night."

Girls aged 5-18 are invited to come dance with the spirit squad at a football and basketball game during their respective seasons. 

During the basketball season, the spirit squad hosts a “snow day” for the families of kids in the Junior Spirit Squad

Team members participate in a snow-filled Sun Devil Club Plaza at Desert Arboretum Park. Activities for the kids include snowball fights, building a snowman, and other typical snow day activities.

"Being a part of so many great events makes you even more thankful for the opportunities you have been given in life,” junior cheer captain Alexandra Shaw said.

Despite a limited practice schedule and no games to attend, the team is still ready whenever they are allowed to cheer again. 

“We want to cheer, but when it is safe,” DeGrate said. “We will continue to prepare like we are cheering tomorrow.”

Reach the reporters at njpietrz@asu.edu and follow @NPietrzycki on Twitter. 

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