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Are cheerleaders out of a job?

The BYU cheer squad isn’t letting empty stadiums stop them.

The BYU cheer squad runs flags at the BYU vs. Texas State game in Provo on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020.
Jocelyn Allan

Their job is to bring people together, but that’s the antithesis of 2020.

So are cheerleaders out of a job?

With college stadiums empty — or mostly empty — how are cheerleaders bringing college football fans together? We asked Jocelyn Allan, BYU head cheer coach.

“I’ve been so impressed with how adaptable they have been,” Allan said. “Because cheerleading is an in-person thing, we’ve have had to think outside the box to make it be different and still have an impact on the game day atmosphere — which I think is the reason that people love college football, that collegiate game day atmosphere. That’s what cheerleaders help provide.”

Spectator sports began to shut down in early March when the coronavirus began spreading across the United States. Most fall collegiate sports were eventually canceled, but football has gone on in some form or another throughout the country. But it’s been far from a normal game day atmosphere.

The BYU football team opened its season against Navy on Sept. 7 in Annapolis, Maryland. Its first home game wasn’t until almost three weeks later — Sept. 26 against Troy.

The number of fans allowed into each of the five home games so far has varied from no fans to 6,000, depending on the state’s COVID-19 regulations at the time. The BYU cheer squad has yet to travel and has participated in just two home games at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo — against Texas State and Western Kentucky.

They won’t participate Saturday when the Cougars play North Alabama, when attendance will be limited to the families of players and coaches.

So how do you provide a collegiate game day atmosphere without risking the health of those around you? For BYU cheer, it’s been about using social media and providing service.

When the year started, Allan told her team they were going to “set sail” and make whatever changes they needed to make along the way — even if that included rebuilding the boat. Adopting this approach has been important for the team since things change daily based on state health guidelines and fan restrictions.

One of the adjustments BYU has made is providing opportunities for fans around the country to participate in the ”second screen experience“ on social media, where they can watch the cheer squad, the Cougarettes and Cosmo perform at halftime.

Performing at homecoming is a big deal in the cheerleading world. It’s a time to reconnect with alumni. But how do you reconnect in a year of face masks and social distancing?

BYU cheer took weeks collecting photos from alumni and put together a virtual homecoming video for the game against Texas San-Antonio on Oct. 10. They received submissions all the way back to the early 1950s.

The BYU cheer and stunt team posted the video on Instagram on Oct. 10.

“Since we can’t have our cheer alumni performing on the field today, here’s a look at some of our cheerleaders from the past!” the post reads.

BYU cheer is also in the planning stages of a program called “Cheer Ups,” where the squad will make visits (social distanced, of course) and provide BYU gear, cheers and tricks for people who need a pick-me-up — and even Cosmo may come.

In a year when cheerleaders would seemingly be out of a job, BYU cheer has embraced 2020 — and been grateful despite the challenges.

“I’m just grateful to be able to provide (the game day atmosphere) in any way. Whether that’s virtually, in person or limited,” Allan said. “I’m just proud of the kids.”

Stevi Ginolfi was part of the BYU cheer squad from 2009-2012.