Hawkeye cheer and poms to move to online tryouts

Following CDC and government regulations to practice social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19, the Hawkeye cheer and dance teams will still continue on their tryouts — this time, online.


Katina Zentz

Cheerleaders cheer during the Hawkeye Huddle at Tin Roof in Indianapolis on Friday, March 6, 2020. The Hawkeyes play against the Ohio State Buckeyes in their first game of this year’s tournament.

Alexandra Skores, News Editor

When the NCAA and Big Ten announced uncertainties surrounding the continuation of sporting events because of the COVID-19 outbreak, two Hawkeye teams reliant upon their fellow athletes’ competitions also came to an early end with their own seasons.

The Hawkeye spirit squads for dance and cheer are both determined to look to the future as they continue tryouts — this time, virtually.

Gregg Niemec, spirit squad coordinator for Iowa cheerleading, said the teams’ mindsets were focused on the future following the announcement of event suspensions.

Niemec said that while preliminary tryout videos are a norm in order to be asked back to tryouts, the two teams will be experiencing a new format with callback tryouts and interviews for potential team members via video formats.

For new and returning cheerleaders wanting to be a part of the Hawkeye Spirit Squad, preliminary tryout videos have already been asked for, Niemec said. Based on the video sent in, the judging team will decide whether or not to ask for a follow-up tryout and ask for more skills via video.

Niemec said the number of preliminary tryouts was on a low end this year but could not disclose how many tryouts the judges had received.

For new and returning dance members, Dance Coach Jennifer Eustice said that preliminary tryout videos will come in for dance members by April 1. After that date, those being asked back will be asked to perform a jazz routine and pom routine via video created by senior Hawkeye dance members.

Eustice believes that the success at the national level has brought decreased numbers to tryouts. The Hawkeye dance team placed third in the nation for its division, D1A, at the Universal Dance Association competition in 2020.

Following the physical tryouts for both teams, the teams will conduct what is traditionally held in-person interviews online via Zoom or Skype, according to the coaches.

“… Just kind of get to know those people as individuals, especially because you have events where I have one or two individuals that maybe have not been able to make it to one of our clinics — just to get to know them outside of them as a dancer,” Eustice said.

Niemec and Eustice said they plan to be accommodating during this time, as many competitive gym locations and public gyms are closed to contain the spread of COVID-19.

“I tell [dancers] I’ve had dancers submit videos from their kitchen, from their garage, doing things outside. So, obviously I understand that space is an issue, but as best as they can to make it make it work. I expect a lot of basement dancing videos,” Eustice said.

Both teams hope to publicly announce the 2020-21 teams by May 1.

The teams remain uncertain for what is to come for their seasons after tryouts. Eustice hopes to make the announcement of being on the team more personal for dancers, while Niemec hopes to award his previous athletes in light of the cancellation of the team’s athletic banquets.

“Obviously everything has changed as far as setting the timeline and all that,” Niemec said. “It’s all really weird — not having graduation, not having our banquets. That was one of the things we brought up was ending this year before we move on to whatever this continuing series is going to be… I don’t even know how we give the kids their awards at this point.”