Hug ― or, better yet, elbow bump ― a cheerleader in your life, because all official camps, competitions and championship events in the US have been cancelled for the next two months over coronavirus concerns.
Yes, that means thousands of collegiate cheerleaders, including the cast of Netflix’s hit docuseries “Cheer” from Navarro College, won’t be mat-talking their way to Daytona Beach, Florida, in the coming weeks to compete in this year’s NCA & NDA Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championship.
At least 378 people in Australia have tested positive while five people have died after contracting COVID-19, one in WA, three in NSW and one in Queensland.
The virus has killed more than 4,000 people worldwide and continues to spread at a rapid pace.
Varsity Spirit, the organisation that oversees a handful of major cheerleading championships, announced on Sunday that it had decided “to not proceed as planned with scheduled events for at least the next eight weeks of the 2020 competition season.”
“We are actively exploring all options, including rescheduling events, extending the competition season, and hosting virtual competitions, to continue to provide a competition experience for the thousands of athletes who have worked so hard this year to compete,” the statement reads.
As the reason for its move, Varsity Spirit cited the recent recommendation of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that events with 50 or more people be postponed or canceled for now.
This will be the first time in 40 years that the NCA & NDA Collegiate Cheer and Dance Championship, which was supposed to take place April 8 to 12, will not be held in the beachside Florida city, according to a Varsity Spirit representative. Cheerleading Worlds 2020 will also not proceed as planned.
Members of the Navarro College cheer team, which has won 14 national championships under the leadership of coach Monica Aldama, turned to social media to express their disappointment over the news.
Breakout star La’Darius Marshall, who’d returned to the small Texas college for his final year on the team, said the cancellation means “the end” of his cheerleading career.
“This isn’t goodbye Navarro 2020 it’s see you later,” he wrote on Instagram. “Daytona you will be missed and greatly appreciated. I love everyone ... of my teammates and all the love we shared. The end of my cheerleading career has come a bit early. For everyone who supported me all this way I want to say thank you and I love you. I’m heartbroken for my team and coaches. Long live the bright light we all shared together and the countless fullouts we have done to get ready for this competition.”
He concluded: “I never got to say goodbye to my brothers and sisters but I know we all love each other dearly. To the rest of the world I love you guys and thank you for being our #1 supporters. We love you FIOFMU.”
Aldama wrote, “My heart is breaking!!!! I love you forever!!!!” in the comments section under his post.
Gabi Butler, who was also featured in the Netflix series, likewise shared her sadness about the cancellation.
“I’m gonna miss looking up to you and saying ‘I’ve got you,’” she wrote. “I’m gonna miss walking into practice and hugging every single one of you... I’m gonna miss the love from this beautiful team 💔 I love you guys with all my heart... FIOFMU FOREVER.”
Other team members had heartfelt words as well:
While Netflix has yet to confirm that a second season of the series was underway, Aldama had hinted that more “Cheer” might be coming.
“We love the film crew like part of our family,” she told HuffPost in a BUILD interview in January, adding that her cheer team was hard at work preparing for this year’s championships. “We would always welcome them back. We don’t know what’s going on right now, but we’ll see.”