The John Jay Cheerleading team will no longer be competing in the CUNYAC Cheerleading Championship. The decision, made by Carol Kashow, Director of Athletics, Recreation, and Intramurals, came as a shock to the members of the team.
The cheerleading team was informed of this decision on September 5th in an interest meeting and although they had heard rumors about the decision, they were disappointed to have it confirmed.
Hoping to raise awareness of the issue, some members of the team reached out for support from students through the JJAY Students app, from Lynette Cook-Francis, Vice-President of Enrollment Management and Student Affairs, Jasmine Awad, Student Council President, and the Women’s Center for Gender Justice.
In addition, they have filed a Title IX complaint.
One of the members of the team, Kaileah Gaynor, started a petition on the issue on Change.org and over 500 people have signed it so far.
“Kashow told us it was difficult to find a consistent coach who would commit to the team for more than a season,” said Ayanna Miller-Smith, a senior who has been on the team for 3 years.
The Sentinel reached out to Kashow for comment.
Kashow provided multiple reasons for her decision, which ranged from the difficulty to find a consistent coach to the unpopularity of cheerleading in Manhattan colleges.
The cheerleading team has had 4 coaches in 6 years and most of them have come from Brooklyn. Since they are part-time at John Jay, Miller-Smith feels that the coaches have a hard time juggling a full-time job during the day and practice sessions in the evenings on campus.
According to Kashow, cheerleading is much more popular in Brooklyn and Staten Island, which explains why most of Bloodhounds’ coaches come from there.
Although John Jay is an NCAA college with sports like soccer, basketball, and baseball, cheerleading is not recognized as a sport, therefore, there is no tournament. The cheerleading team is only allowed to compete in the CUNYAC Cheerleading Championship.
“We are the only Manhattan CUNY 4-year school which offers cheerleading and has competed,” Kashow said. “Baruch, Hunter and CCNY — none of them have declared.”
“With our other sports, the fact that they are an NCAA sport and would possibly lead to a career path for a part-time coach is something that inspires them [the coaches] to stay here, to build a resume and to move on to other NCAA schools at a full-time situation,” Kashow said.
To Miller-Smith there is a simple solution to stop the coaches from leaving for better opportunities but according to her, Kashow does not allow it.
“Cheerleading coaches here could go to the next level if she had allowed us to compete at other competitions which other CUNY schools do,” she said. “Brooklyn College has competed in UCA competitions and those are competitions where coaches are more recognized for the athleticism of the sport because that is what competitive cheerleading is.”
In addition, the team feels that they are not getting the proper amount of resources.
The team usually practices from 5 pm to 9 pm on weekdays in the Auxiliary gym but due to the fact that both the main gym and the Auxiliary gym are rented to Urban League Monday through Thursday from 7 pm to 11 pm, they have had to switch to a different location to finish practice.
“Once Urban League comes in, we would move into the Racketball Room,” Miller-Smith said. “The ceiling is high enough to allow us to stunt but it is not wide enough for us to have a full practice.”
This is a problem that the team has complained about in the past.
Regarding the main gym and Auxiliary gym being rented out to Urban League, Kashow affirmed that it is nothing new.
“That is how we make money so that we can put uniforms on everybody so that we can feed them so that we can hire staff and coaches,” she said.
In the past, however, the team also had issues with their uniforms. They either had missing bows or lacked the right sizes.
“We have had to borrow bodysuits from cheerleaders that graduated,” said Idalina Marin, a junior on the team for 3 years.
According to Kashow, besides a few uniforms getting custom made, there were no other issues regarding uniforms.
Some members of the team believe the decision to no longer be able to compete comes down to the stigma that cheerleading is not a sport.
“The whole fight about cheerleading needing to be a sport is because if they don’t recognize us as a sport they don’t give us the necessary medical attention we need and cheerleading is a dangerous sport,” Miller-Smith said.
Despite the athleticism, stunts, and injuries that come with it, they feel it is not respected enough.
Kashow stated that she was the one who took the cheerleading team and turned it from a club into an athletic team. However, the ladies of the cheerleading team, although appreciative, feel that it was part of her job description.
“The fact that she says that she respects us as an athletic team but wants us to cheer on the sidelines is the very narrative people use to argue that we are not a sport,” Miller-Smith said.
Despite all the issues they have encountered, the Cheerleading team has been one of the most successful teams of John Jay’s Athletic program for the past 2 years. In 2017, the Bloodhounds brought home their first-ever CUNYAC Cheerleading Championship trophy after defeating the Bulldogs of Brooklyn College. Earlier this year, they finished in second place in the same competition.
Since they will no longer be competing, Kashow wants the team to do things a bit differently.
“There will be some practicing for their cheering and their dancing at competitions [basketball],” she said. “There was a minimum requirement for cheerleaders at basketball games, there won’t be that since they are not competing.”
Kashow wants the Cheerleaders to cheer for other outdoor sports during their regular season games, Senior Days, and post-season games.
The cheerleaders who spoke to the Sentinel voiced their displeasure of the situation.
“If we are just going to cheer for Basketball, they might as well get a dance team,” said Nicole Cobos, a junior on the team for 3 years.
Sabrina Dieujuste, a sophomore returning to the team for the second time, stated she is sad that the privilege of competing has been taken away.
“Now that we are not able to compete, literally what are we doing?” she said.
Despite the issue, John Jay students still have interest in the Cheerleading team as over 30 students showed up to their tryouts on October 6th. As a result, the team now has 20 members.