The GHSA’s decision to essentially turn competition cheer into a winter sport this school year, pushing the season from an August-November timeframe to a November-February schedule due to COVID-19, has put local coaches in a tough spot.
While the programs at Adairsville, Cartersville and Cass will try to make the best of the upheaval caused by the season’s postponement, Woodland head coach Kathi Shedd decided it was best for the Wildcats to sit out the 2020 season.
“I just have too many kids that do winter sports,” Shedd said via text. “I have swimmers, a basketball player, wrestlers and All-Stars [non-school cheerleading]. I don’t think my All-Stars’ bodies can handle the wear and tear of trying to do two seasons at once.”
Shedd also confirmed that she is retiring from coaching. Woodland will still look to compete in this season’s Game Day Competition on Feb. 27, but Shedd will not coach the Wildcats for that event, instead focusing on enjoying her son’s senior year of wrestling.
The only cheerleading coach the school has ever known — having coached and taught at Woodland since it opened in 1997 — Shedd will depart having led the Wildcats to a handful of state championships.
“I am proud to say that I have been the head cheerleading coach since the day we opened the door at Woodland,” Shedd told The Daily Tribune News last November
. “I have been blessed to coach some of the most talented ladies and gentlemen in Bartow County. Our competition teams have won five state championships — three all-girl [2004-06] and two co-ed [2008, 2016]. Only once in 22 years has our team not made it to the state championships.”
The Wildcats also qualified for state this past season, but the coronavirus pandemic will rob Shedd of a proper sendoff. Even though Shedd undoubtedly feels worse for her athletes than herself, it’s extremely unfortunate that her illustrious coaching career will end in this manner.
“I hate to say my last year didn’t happen,” she texted, “but it’s not right to move a season to another and ask kids to give things up.”
At Adairsville, Kaylie Noe faces similar challenges and knows it will be difficult to traverse the upcoming season with her athletes participating in other activities. However, she believes her team can make the best of the tough situation.
“I have mixed emotions,” Noe said. “We’ve been working all summer, at least at the capacity that we were allowed to. I feel like it’s a little disappointing that we didn’t even get the opportunity to try [to have a fall season]. That’s been a lot to handle. It’s been stressful, worrying about our athletes who play winter sports. Having them involved in multiple activities and not making them want to choose, that’s been a little bit stressful. …
“There’s been some negatives, but there’s also been some positives. We’ve got more time to work on some things and rework some things, so that’s been nice. I think moving forward, we’ve tapped the breaks just a little bit. Our girls can dial back a little bit, rest a little bit, so we’re not pushing them full throttle for the next several months. That’s given some of our girls who were injured time to heal, which is nice. It’s really just given us a chance to re-evaluate our goals, where we’re at and where we want to go.”
Since learning of the postponement, Noe has switched up her team’s practice schedule, focusing on quality as opposed to quantity. It’s part of her plan to make sure her athletes don’t get burned out or injured, as preparation for the season becomes a several-month ordeal.
“We 100% are taking advantage of the additional time that we have, to hopefully really be able to step up some of our skills, especially with stunting,” Noe said. “Our girls are going to have longer time in the gym to step up their tumbling skills. That’s more of a personal thing they can work on. …
“We are going to use the additional time to our benefit. We hope to be a better team than we initially had thought when our first competition rolls around.”
Due to the unconventional offseason brought on by the GHSA’s COVID-related restrictions, most cheer teams would have been facing a slightly rough start to the season. That being said, Noe typically waits until late September to compete for the first time.
She’s unsure how she’ll approach this unique winter season, which is set to begin Nov. 7 with state finals to be held Feb. 15-16 at Columbus Civic Center.
“At this point, we’re still not positive if we’ll go early or what that will look like,” Noe said of her scheduling strategy. “We, at least, would like to do four competitions like we normally do. It’s still a little bit up in the air, just to see where we’re at at that point. If we’re ready to go come November, then yeah, we’ll start early and we’ll get going. It just kind of depends.”
Frankly, Noe would probably be fine with showing up whenever and wherever to compete this winter, because although her sideline team wasn’t impacted by the postponement, her main hope is to keep her seniors from losing their final seasons of school cheer.
The decisions made by the GHSA were difficult to accept, but having had a chance to reflect on the postponement, Noe is thankful to still have the chance to prepare for a season — albeit a delayed one.
“Honestly, at first, it was rough,” she said. “We as coaches were emotional; the players were emotional. The decision was kind of put out there really quick, and we didn’t have a whole lot of time as coaches to wrap our brains around it before our athletes found out and our parents found out. Emotions were high. Lots and lots of questions at first.
“Now that we’ve had some time, we’re all just trying to see the positive in it. Grateful that they didn’t shut our season down, and hopefully, we’re able to still actually have our season.”