High school cheerleading tryouts get started this week with some added incentive for Pasco County's teams.
This season, the county is sending only the top five teams in the Best of Pasco meet in November to the state meet in March in Tallahassee. Last season, the county sent all teams to the two-day competition in Boca Raton.
"I have really big hopes for this year and I think we're going to have to work that much harder because I think people now know what's out there and because of the way Pasco County is running it now where the top 5 teams from Best of Pasco get to go to state," Land O' Lakes coach Celisa Cook said. "Instead of having all 11 teams go they're going to have a preliminary for us so that's a little bit more of a push and it's in November this year, which is two months earlier than what we're used to so we really have got to get going almost as soon as the school year starts. It's more pressure but they're hoping to get Best of Pasco and then continue onto states."
The change, which was made for financial reasons, puts a much different spin on cheer season. For the five best teams in Pasco County, their seasons will last until March while the others will end in November.
Cheerleading teams still will cheer for basketball season, but as far as the competitive season goes, that could be over for most teams in late fall.
That's five months of additional practices and preparation for the teams and five months of additional work for coaches who will receive the same supplement whether or not their teams advance past the Best of Pasco meet.
The top five teams would continue to practice every day while the other teams would probably only practice once a week to get their routines for basketball season in order.
"That's the thing, if I wanted to be done in November it would be so easy," Ridgewood coach Mary Anders said. "I would have mediocre cheerleaders, I wouldn't coach my heart out, but I don't know how to do that."
The expense of sending 10 teams to Boca Raton was a big one that included transportation, hotel rooms and meals for two days.
Part of the justification to only send five teams was that other sports don't send that many teams to their respective state meets, Anders said, and that was understandable, but she added that it would be nice if there was an extra stipend for coaches whose teams had to go five months longer than the others.
"There are coaches that are dedicated and do stuff with their teams all year round, but you don't have a choice in this thing," Anders said.
Although they could get the season over with early, Anders said the Rams were excited about trying to advance to the state meet. Last season Ridgewood placed third in Best of Pasco and 13th in the state meet.
"I'm definitely going to give it my all," she said. "I'm going to get the best girls and I have a really good guy that's coming out this year, who is leaving the dance team so I'll be in the co-ed division with Land O' Lakes, but I could easily go the other way."