RANDOLPH, NJ—When school closed due to coronavirus concerns, instead of holding live cheerleading tryouts in early spring, the coaches of the cheerleading program at Randolph High School were compelled to hold video tryouts for the high school’s aspiring cheerleaders, 56 of whom made the team.

“The biggest challenge is having to make decisions without seeing athletes in a pressure situation,” said Coach Nick Longo about judging based only on videos. “Athletes perform differently under pressure. Doing things virtually does not allow athletes to feel what they should feel in real time.”

Student athletes had to create videos of themselves completing a cheer, two dances and jumps and send them to the coaches on a Microsoft Teams form. Aspiring cheerleaders were also able to send in previous videos of themselves stunting and tumbling, if they had any available. Prior to tryouts, coaches sent the athletes videos and materials, so they could learn what they had to in order to try out.

Sign Up for Randolph Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

Despite the challenges of video tryouts, Coach Olivia Dunnigan also stressed some positive outcomes that would come from this experience: “I think the virtual tryout can potentially reduce some of the nerves and anxiety that cheerleaders experience around a live small group tryout.”

Added Dunnigan, “Trying out via video offers athletes a chance to perform one on one in a familiar and comfortable environment which hopefully eases nerves for many cheerleaders and allows them the best opportunity to show off their skills.”

Students had five days to learn their moves and perfect their tryout videos, which had to be submitted by 7 p.m. on May 5. Throughout the process, the coaches were open to questions from athletes, in order to try to give them the best chance of succeeding.

The virtual environment allowed cheerleaders to work at their own pace to learn the required materials. However, some admitted that learning by video was a challenge. “It was a bit harder to learn from a video, but we had more time to practice everything this year,” said Ashlie Allen, a current freshman at RHS who is involved in the cheerleading program. “The coaches were still open for questions, which helped too.”

On the plus side, the technology involved seemed to help speed up the process of selecting a cheerleading team, in comparison to years past. Videos were submitted on May 5 and results were already posted by May 8.

While this whole setup was not ideal, it was necessary for the wellbeing of everyone involved. “Simply put, it will help keep everyone healthy,” Longo commented, regarding the safety of his athletes.

Editor's Note : Grace Murphy is a freshman at Randolph High School participating in a journalism program with Tapinto into Randolph.