UF Cheerleaders Deserve Gators’ Support

Florida Gators cheerleaders perform during the second half in the semifinals of the west region of the 2012 NCAA men’s basketball tournament against the Marquette Golden Eagle. (Christopher Hanewickel-US PRESSWIRE)

Recently, the UF Cheerleaders were informed by Jeremy Foley that their program would be “permanently grounded”. This means that no longer will the cheerleaders be able to do any stunting, tumbling, or acrobatic maneuvers. This move was made as a result of an injury during a performance at an Orlando Magic basketball game; a performance that was not affiliated with the University in any way. The stunt that is in question is not performed in Gainesville; nor has it ever been performed by the UF Cheerleaders at a basketball game. This is just a rash reaction made without thinking about the numerous students who seek out UF as a school for its cheerleading program and are affected by this decision.

We could argue all day whether cheerleading is a sport or not (The FHSAA has indeed recognized it as one, as well as provided appropriate athletic guidelines to participate. Many other states have also done the same.), but these are athletes — athletes who take great pride in what they bring to the table. There is no doubt that cheerleaders help build the atmosphere that creates the great home-field advantage at many Gators sporting events.

They also do a tremendous job of bridging the gap between alumni and the current students; a gap that seems to get wider with each season. The UF Cheerleaders are great ambassadors to the school. If the athletic component of what they do is taken away, the team will no longer be made up of the type of well-rounded student-athletes that we see today.

While I have never participated in cheerleading, I do have many friends that are former cheerleaders, many still remaining close to the program to this day. They are proud of providing their support to UF Athletics, while of course performing many athletic maneuvers themselves. A lot of time and dedication has been put in by these students, athletes and ambassadors, including traveling to numerous athletic events. However, instead of being viewed as athletes, the Cheerleaders are viewed as a marketing tool.

They do not receive the insurance coverage that all other athletes at the University receive.

Granted, there is some risk in being involved in cheerleading, however, those involved understand that risk. That is why they take the time and effort to practice their craft and make sure that everything is executed properly and done with safety in mind. Also, UF has relied on an independent medical advisory board appointed by the University Athletic Association (UAA) to make sure every routine done by the Gator Cheerleaders is safe.

This board was not consulted before the decision to ground the program was made.

Please, as a member of Gator Nation, take a look at www.SaveFloridaCheerleading.com to learn more about this issue. If you agree that we should #UngroundUFCheer, please let the UAA know. If nothing else, let’s show that we support our fellow Gators, ones who have as much passion about UF as any other group of people I know. Let’s make the UAA rethink this decision.

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