The COVID-19 restrictions put in place at Mackay Stadium go beyond the football field. It spreads throughout the away-side bleachers, where the Nevada Cheerleading Team is confined for the 2020-21 season.
Away from the action on the sidelines, the Nevada Cheer team is scattered throughout the empty seats as they cheer on the Wolf Pack with screams and hollers. But that’s about all that the 74 members of the Wolf Pack Spirit Program are limited to during a season unlike any other.
Due to social distancing measures and other safety precautions, the Nevada Cheer team can’t participate in several routines such as tumbling and stunts this year. The team also is restricted to certain parts of the stadium and cannot get in close contact with players, coaches and staff on the field.
NCAA Division I athletics is enduring through an unprecedented season, and Nevada is no exception. The coronavirus has put major limitations on all sporting events at the university while impacting Nevada Cheer’s season.
Senior and captain of the Nevada Cheer team Ashton Milligan team has seen the new environment unfold over each home football game.
“It’s a different dynamic for us,” Milligan said. “There are times where I don’t know how to deal with what’s going on. Cheering from the stands and missing out on those aspects is tough … It’s not what we wanted, but we’re just grateful to cheer.”
Through two Nevada football home games, fan attendance at Mackay Stadium has been limited to 250 family members of players and coaches. Nevada athletics enforced limited capacity to the 27,000-seat stadium before the season began. The department also announced there will not be season tickets for men’s or women’s basketball this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Without fan interaction, the Nevada Cheer team is adjusting to the new precautions. Dozens of members such as senior Brooke Latos, captain of the Nevada pom team, have practiced their cheers from the stands.
“Cheering without those fans has been incredibly different,” Latos said. “They bring a lot of energy to our dancing and abilities. It’s easy to cheer for them. Without that aspect it’s been difficult in some aspects, not as intense as it was before.”
Along with the lack of fans for each Nevada home game, the elimination of certain routines is another obstacle for the team to overcome. Stunts and tumbling are crucial components to their overall cohesiveness as a unit. It requires balance, flexibility and trust in each teammate to perform each task successfully.
Senior Addison Box, a member of the Nevada coed stunt team, has had issues finding chemistry this season due to precautionary procedures at each home contest.
“We typically spent our season working on stunts with the boys, but we haven’t been able to do that,” Box said. “Usually we’re on the track or on the field stunting and we aren’t allowed to perform there. For my team, it’s been really different and difficult.”
The pandemic has financially impacted all Nevada Athletics on campus. To help meet the budget challenges, the We Are Nevada Campaign was launched to help minimize the financial shortfall this season. The Nevada Cheer team has a fundraising target of $15,000 to provide essential needs throughout the year.
Whether it is on the field or standing in the bleachers, the Nevada Cheerleading Team has provided many opportunities for student-athletes.
“Cheering is everything to me, It’s taught me to never take anything for granted,” Milligan said. “This experience we’re going through is one unlike any other, so I’m embracing it to the fullest.”
Despite the challenges ahead throughout the year, the Nevada Cheerleading Team remains grateful for their opportunity. The group has stayed connected through these difficult circumstances and will continue to perform to the best of their ability.
“We are in this together,” Latos said. “Going through this and being the first Nevada Cheer team to push through all of it has really made us stronger … If we can get through this, we can get through anything.”
Multiple competitions and college cheer programs around the country have been canceled this season. Regardless of the difficulty surrounding the Nevada Cheerleading Team, they will represent the university this season amidst the uncertainty.
“We’re lucky to even perform at all,” Box said. “I didn’t think we’d be able to go to any games. We’re just excited to support the team like we usually do, with or without fans we’ll make the most of it.”
Isaiah Burrows can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @IsaiahBurrows_