BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - COVID-19 has canceled many events and with things slowly trying to get back to normal, cheerleading competitions are operating differently.
The Deep South Gulf Coast Champions League competition began Friday for the fourth year, according to Deep South Spirit President David Hanberry.
On Saturday, Hanberry said COVID-19 raised fear that the annual cheer competition wouldn’t take place, but with planning proper safety procedures, the show went on.
“Champion Leagues has been in Biloxi, I believe fours year here. Deep South has been open about 20 years, we’ve been in and out,” said Hanberry. “The biggest difference is we have more people showing up this year than ever because people want to watch their kids and support them. But this year, we’re having to run in sessions.”
Each cheer squad had designated warmup areas and performed at their scheduled time. Because the competition was ran in sessions this year, only family and friends could gather near the stage during their team’s performance.
After performing their routine, security cleared the seating area for the next group of supporters.
“It’s been different certainly, competitions work different than usual,” said Tania Studer, a Desoto Central cheer mom.
Although competitions are different this year, Studer and other cheer parents said it’s worth it after seeing their daughters work so hard.
“It’s a reward for the girls, because they really worked so hard to do this,” said Studer. “It’s nice for them to get out there and have a crowd because that’s what cheer is all about, cheering on the crowd.”
One mom traveling from Louisiana, Katie Belleanger, said she’s happy the competition was not virtual because it wouldn’t have been the same as the in-person performance.
“Virtually competitions would’ve been awful and that was the suggestion at the beginning and I don’t think anybody wanted that,” said Belleanger.
The Mississippi Coast Coliseum required masks inside, although the president over the event said squads didn’t have to practice their routine with a mask.
Hanberry also said for supporters who didn’t feel comfortable attending the competition in person, streaming virtually was an option.
“Today we will have probably 40,000 people check us out on the live stream and thousands of people are here. It’s more about getting on that stage for them, the confidence boost,” said Hanberry. “Working together as a team. So all of the things that they’ve practiced in their gym- you may see them flip, tumble, and jump, and dance but it’s really about the confidence.”
The Deep South cheer competition began Friday and wraps up tomorrow. Watch “Mississippi Tested: The COVID Fight Now and in the Future” Thursday, March 11th at 6:30 p.m. on WLOX CBS.