Ryan Chiao, Photo Editor

This year, the Yale cheerleading team is on an informal hiatus from their normally scheduled practices and appearances as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The team, which had around 15 members last year, would normally be hosting tryouts, attending Yale football and basketball games and practicing three times a week this semester. They hope to return to practice soon, perhaps as early as next semester. Due to social distancing guidelines, team members living far from New Haven and restrictions on athletic practices this semester, the team has resorted to occasional online meetings while they wait for a return.

“I am a very lucky coach and I have a team of amazing students,” the team’s coach Courtney Pandolfi told the News. “But as of now we are waiting patiently until we get the okay to reunite and start the season.”

Pandolfi also mentioned not being able to host in-person practices yet. As part of the phased Ivy League approach to resuming training, varsity teams are able to start limited conditioning training in a socially distanced manner with a maximum of 10 students during Phase I. Distanced sport-specific activities can begin in Phase II, though cheerleading is not one of Yale’s 35 Division I varsity teams.

Madeline Meade ’23, a member of the team who is on a leave of absence this semester, told the News that due to cheerleading requiring so much “holding each other up,” it would be very difficult to hold practices in a socially distanced format.

“Given the choice, we’d all go back,” Meade said. “I don’t know how confident I am that we’ll be able to make it back [by spring 2021] … depending on what our coach gets told.”

Meade added that she has been stretching on her own in preparation for an eventual return. She also said that she misses practices the most, as they’re “really the time that we’re all together.”

The cheerleading team took center court at the Yale–Penn men’s basketball game last February. (Photo: Courtesy of muscosportsphotos.com)

Hannah Armistead ’22 told the News that the team was initially hoping to join cheerleading competitions against other schools this year for the first time, but the pandemic put the plan on pause for now. Like Meade, she said she misses spending time with the team the most.

“It’s a big part of my experience at Yale,” she said. “The team is really close and I was excited to be an upperclassmen and welcome new girls and shepherd them into the community.”

The cheerleading team has not hosted tryouts or accepted new members this fall, and it is unclear whether they will attempt to host online recruitment in the spring. Armistead mentioned meeting with girls who were interested in joining the team during virtual Bulldog Days last spring and even hosting a small remote orientation with them.

Meade and Armistead both said they have attended some online social events with the rest of the team since quarantine began. Armistead, who is enrolled and in New Haven, was also able to meet with some team members in person and goes on occasional runs around the city with a teammate. She said that while the squad has met virtually a few times, she believes everyone is tired of spending all day on a computer and that meeting for social events online would not be as fun.

Yale returned to Phase I of the Ivy League’s tiered approach on Monday following a cluster of COVID-19 cases on the men’s hockey team that reverted Yale to Phase 0.

Ángela Pérez |angela.perez@yale.edu