Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Your School. Your Paper. Since 1936.

The Suffolk Journal

Suffolk cheerleaders facing an uncertain future

Article By: Matt West

State-wide competitions allow a cheerleading squad to display its talent and hard work. Cheerleading teams put in the time and effort, just like any other sports squad.

The cheerleading squad at Suffolk University, while not considered a varsity sports team, has participated in various competitions over the years. The program is seven years old, has competed for four years and has generally been a success.

However, due to a recent rash of injuries and no available medical treatment, the team is in jeopardy of losing its chance to compete, and may be rendered a “spirit squad,” a group that would cheer on the sidelines at school sporting events.

Just this past year, a flyer on the team, after attempting a double twist down, came down hard and hit her head on the shoulder of her back spot, the person who steadies the whole stunt. As a result of the impact, the flyer suffered a concussion that developed into an aneurysm, catching the eye of the Athletics Department. The seriousness of this injury, coupled with other minor injuries, led the Department to worry about the safety of the students.

Speaking with a few members of the team as well as those within the Athletics Department, a schism in ideologies is apparent.

The crux of the argument is this: while the girls would like to continue to participate in competitions and work towards being a recognized and respected group, the dangerous aspects of the sport and the high potential for injury for the girls on the team leaves the Athletics Department very few options.

Currently, the Athletics Department is reviewing whether or not the team will continue to be a participant in future competitions.

“The head injury was never officially reported to me,” explained Jeff Stone, the head athletic trainer at Suffolk. “Basically what I noticed, which I had in my report [to AD Nelson], was I saw the kids coming to the games with a lot of braces on, with a lot of supports, and they didn’t have any medical documentation on those.”

Because Stone and the Athletics Department didn’t know the extent of the injuries and none of the performers had any medical documentation, a concern for their health during these events became a real issue.

While the injuries are a serious concern for all those involved, most sports work under the assumption that the potential for maladies exists, and that injuries are simply a byproduct of competition. Injuries happen and make any sport that much more difficult to perform.

“It’s a liability to play any sport,” said junior captain Lauren Berardino. “It’s not a cheerleading team if you don’t stunt. It’s always been an issue trying to further advance Suffolk cheerleading.”

Despite the risk, the members of the team work hard to perfect their routines and make them as safe as possible, and enjoy doing so.

“As a freshman, it was awesome to be a part of something and I made such close friends,” explained  Meghan Harrington, one of twelve Suffolk students currently on the team. “We work so hard and practice for hours and it’s sad that people don’t take us seriously. If we were taken seriously like the other sports, we would be able to keep girls on the team and actually get to do things that other college squads are doing.”

Krystle Bennett, who has coached cheerleading for five years, is in her first year with the team. Bennett took over for former head coach Allie Beauchesne, and she has worked hard with this group to get them where they are today.

“It is unfortunate, but understood, why the school has grounded the team, rendering them unable to compete this season,” she explained in an email. “Just like any other sport, there are injuries, and it is our responsibility as coaches to do everything we can to prevent them from happening while taking our teams to the next level.”

Bennett, speaking candidly about the team and program, explained that although cheerleading can be a very dangerous sport, these girls have worked hard and appreciate the chance to work in a competitive environment.

“There was progress being made, and discussions [being held] to review how to make the program even better next year,” she added. “I sincerely hope that the school decides to continue the program and allow the girls to continue competing in collegiate events.”

Athletic Director Jim Nelson explained that he had sent messages to coach Bennett voicing his concerns over the injuries many girls on the team had sustained.

“As the season came down to a conclusion, we had those unfortunate injuries,” explained Nelson. “With an absence of more dedicated practice time, it was my decision that it was not to be a competition team.”

Nelson stressed that he has been extremely proud of the passion and spirit exhibited by the team, even with some turnover throughout the season. On more than one occasion he would come in on a Sunday, he explained, and make sure the facility was open and available for the team. He made sure that accommodating the team was certainly a priority for the entire Athletics Department.

No decision has been made yet on the competitive future of the team.

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Suffolk cheerleaders facing an uncertain future