By Charlie Miller, Staff Writer and Zion Williams, Staff Writer
It was recently announced that the cheerleading team will receive 25 new uniforms and will receive practice mats for safety.
Prior to this announcement, cheerleader Christine Lombardino ’23 said that “the administration has taken many measures, directly and indirectly, to delegitimize the cheerleading team.”
According to the Gettysburg College athletics website, cheerleading is not currently recognized as an official sport, resulting in several complications.
Lombardino said that the team’s 2023 spring season is on hold because they were not able to clear everyone medically, a requirement they must fulfill despite not lacking official recognition.
Lombardino noted that “this [requirement] has also never been communicated with our coach after four years of running the team and four years of being on the team herself.”
Cheerleader Alexia Ferraro ’24 also explained that due to this issue, “there was a football game we missed in the beginning of this past season and all the parents were asking where we were.”
Although the cheerleading team attends home games in support of the football team, the squad has been unable to attend away games for the football team. This restriction was just recently lifted.
When cheerleader Mia McHugh ’25 tried to speak to a College representative to find out if they could receive transportation to away games, she found that “someone on the team would have to get trained to drive the College’s buses.” Lombardino stated that this is not a realistic request. As a result, away games will be without cheerleaders.
Members of the team believe that receiving official status would greatly improve the general support for the program. However, Executive Director of Athletics and Campus Recreation at Gettysburg College Mike Mattia said recognizing cheerleading as a sport is an issue over which the College does not have much autonomy.
“Cheerleading is not a sport that the NCAA sponsors and conducts a championship,” said Mattia. “Stunt, which has many aspects of cheerleading, was on the agenda to be voted on to become an emerging sport at this past year’s NCAA convention. Ultimately, it was not brought to a vote, and was referred back for further study with the possibility to be voted on in future years by the NCAA membership.”
Due to cheerleading’s lack of recognition within the NCAA and at other schools in the Centennial Conference, Gettysburg has placed it within the realm of clubs and other student organizations, according to Mattia.
Additionally, Mattia argued that the athletic department does work to support the team. “The Athletic Department provides cheerleading with an annual budget, a stipend for a coach each year, and manages a fundraising account specifically for their use,” said Mattia. “Our certified athletic trainers also take care of them when they get injured.”
However, Lombardino mentioned that whenever cheerleaders do go to the athletic trainers, “they joke about why the injuries are occurring.” Lombardino and her fellow cheerleaders asserted that “the majority of these injuries could have been avoided if we had the right equipment.”
Members of the team expressed that the additions of new uniforms and mats will greatly benefit the team in many ways. For example, cheerleaders will no longer have to fix their uniforms with sharp pins.
Lombardino remembered that “without [the pins], they would fall off some people’s waists.” The new safety mats are also likely to lower the rate of injuries, as mishaps in practice will lead to cheerleaders falling onto soft padding, rather than the hard track or field house floor.
Lombardino said, “the Gettysburg College Cheerleading program has defined my college experience, and without it, I would probably not be walking across the graduation stage in May.”
For her and her teammates, it is an “escape from academic stress,” a good “team-building activity,” and a place to form bonds with like-minded students looking to show their school pride. They see the new resources available to the team as a way to better undertake another successful season in the fall.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the cheerleading team is currently restricted from traveling to away games (-K. Oglesby).