By Taylor Bernard
Students and faculty learned that Malone would be losing the football program only a few weeks ago. The football players, coaches, and staff that contributed to the program felt an enormous loss, and they were not the only ones. The decision will have a lasting impact on cheerleading, which is a club sport here at Malone. The cheer team is made up of all girls; some who have cheered throughout high school, and some who are just now trying it out. Whatever the case, they all have a passion for the team they have built and the sport they cheered for.
The loss of the football program impacts the cheerleading team in a variety of ways. Rachel Hunka, who has coached the team since 2016, described how the loss of football, “cuts [the cheer] season in half.” She elaborated that normally tryouts would be held for the squad in April, but without football the cheer season will not pick up until basketball begins. The team not only lost the time that they normally spent on the football field, but they also lost a significant amount of the time they spend together. To prepare for football season, the cheerleaders would move in early fall semester, and attend a camp for a week.
“[Without the football program,] they won’t have the move in, they won’t have the five day camps…we just won’t have any of that anymore,” Hunka said.
The change is impacting each of the girls personally. Hannah Louk is a senior on the cheer squad and an RA in Blossom Hall. She is double majoring in early childhood education and intervention specialist, as well as working towards her 4th and 5th grade endorsement. Louk used to cheer in high school, but did not join the team at Malone until last year. Louk says that as a senior, the news was especially hard to take.
“I’m student teaching next semester, and since I’m, like, only going to be on campus for one semester, I’m not allowed to be an RA,” Louk said, “I was also looking at cheering for football season as kind of being my way to stay connected to the college side of this next semester.”
Jeneca Shar is another cheerleader here at Malone. She is a freshman nursing major. She cheered for three and a half years in high school, and part of the reason she looked into Malone was their cheer program; as a club sport, it would allow her to keep her passion for cheering while still maintaining her grades.
“This is my fourth year cheering for football,” Shar said. “And now I don’t even know what to do.”
Shar discussed how she sympathized with the football players and those in the band, as this has greatly affected them. However, she wants the Malone body to understand that “we were also affected by this; we full on lost something that can’t be substituted for.”
Coach Grimes, the director of athletics, remains hopeful that the cheer program can continue to thrive and expand without football. In an email interview, Grimes writes that “I also have a discussion about attending some cheer competitions in the fall as a preparation for basketball season. We will also encourage the cheerleaders to continue to make public appearances at homecoming for volleyball and soccer games, the Hall of Fame Parade, and perhaps assist high school programs on Friday nights at HS football games.”
Coach Grimes encourages the student body to continue to support athletics at Malone. Louk and Shar agree that they can never have enough encouragement from their peers. The cheerleaders must adapt to this change with the rest of Malone. Although what the cheerleaders do may look different in the future, Hunka is optimistic that they will continue to do great things.
“Our ultimate goal is to not just build a good cheer program but to build the character and integrity of our athletes; that’s not changing,” Hunka said.