Cheerleading conference champions

Members of the cheerleading team gather for a photo op inside McCamish Pavilion. // Photo courtesy of @gtcheerleading via Instagram

As the semester comes to an end, the Tech cheerleaders recently secured their first annual ACC national championship, an experiment which initially arose as a direct result of the pandemic.

“When COVID shut us down, all of the cheer and dance coaches of the ACC got together online about every two weeks,” said Daniel Nester, head coach for the Georgia Tech cheerleading program.

“Initially it was just a check in to see how everyone was doing, but as we transitioned out of that role, we began to plan these championships.”

The ACC is unique in being the only power five conference to host a championship for cheerleading, and it was largely brought on due to the pandemic.

“All the coaches were on board, kind of as a result of the pandemic. Nobody had anything going on, so we had all summer to really plan an event that a lot of us have wanted to do for a while,” said Nester.

Coming back from almost six months off in the fall, perhaps the longest break in training the team has ever had, and with the pandemic still raging on, the coaching staff made the decision to focus primarily on strength and conditioning training.”

While the pandemic scaled back previously everyday activities, this didn’t stop the team from not only performing at the highest level, but also developing the championship culture that is important to a cohesively performing at maximum potential.

“With cheer being a close contact sport, we never really had full clearance to be able to practice exactly how we used to,” said Carly Wood, fourth-year AE.

“However, we were still able to not only practice, but also to continue to spend together. We really spend most of our time together: eating, training, competing, and this year we’ve been able to come together even more with everything going on to compete and win at that high level.”

When asked about culture, Coach Nester also spoke to its importance in the teams win at the ACCs.

“For as long as I’ve been the head coach I’ve tried to work and help build that culture to push the team to the next level. The team obviously spends a lot of time together, but we also have former team members advising and helping them to learn what it takes to succeed in this sport.”

The win is especially poignant this year, being both the inaugural year of the championship and dominated for the most part by the pandemic.

“We’ve been close to the bar before, performing well at nationals in the past. But with this win, we’ve proven that we can compete at that high level, and have set the bar for our program moving forward”, said Nester.

This year has been especially challenging for sports teams, but the win has helped show that success is entirely possible against these odds, as long as the team is willing to push for it.

When asked about next year’s prospects, Coach Nester was entirely optimistic.

“Most of the time at the end of nationals, the team is ready for a couple month break to relax and just take some time off,” Nester said.

“But coming off this win, they’re really ready to keep going and practicing and working towards that next championship.”