JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Thursday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee said a decline in Covid-19 numbers in the state led him to roll back restrictions on winter sports attendance and allow cheerleaders and dance teams to join the sidelines starting February 1.
“It just seemed a little unfair that basketball got to go but then the cheer and dance did not. I just think this has made it a little more fair that everybody can participate in their sport,” said Science Hill High School Dance Team mom, Teresa Morton. “We had it this way before Christmas where they got to cheer and dance and basketball…and all the parents could attend and it was fine so I didn’t really understand the stopping.”
Morton’s daughter, Michelle is a senior and will be allowed to dance at home basketball games for the first time since December.
“We don’t get in contact with other schools while we do our sport. It was really irritating,” said Michelle. “I didn’t see the difference because each sport has a senior on it at least and they get to play and do what they love to do but why couldn’t we do what we love to do?”
Although crowd sizes will still be limited at games, there are no restrictions on who can attend games, meaning those beyond Morton’s immediate household family can attend the games.
“It means so much to me when they come to watch me and cheer me on…and I think it means a lot to everyone else on the team too,” said Michelle. “I just really appreciate [Governor Lee] for thinking about all the other sports that kind of had their season cut short.”
While those in athletics welcome Thursday’s afternoon announcement, there isn’t much time left in the winter sports’ season.
“I’m excited to hear about the announcement because we get back to some normalcy in our life here. I am a little bummed though because I don’t have any home events left. With the order going in I believe February 1st, I would like to have another home game to recoup some of the funds that I lost,” said David Crockett High School Athletic Director Josh Kite. “I’ve already missed out on all my Friday night games to Boone to Science Hill, Dobyns-Bennett, you know when you’re making $600 a game and you’ve got expenses around $800, you go in the hole.”
Kite says he was thankful to have a football season to financially help on the front end.
“Your winter sports will carry over to your spring sports which we generate thousands of dollars in our basketball season but our spring sports is pretty much a break even season but we do have a great community that helps us out,” Kite said.
Athletic programs are hoping to make up for lost funds ahead of spring as well as try to make up for lost time with students and athletes who couldn’t participate or come to games.
“I don’t see what the trouble is of bringing our cheerleaders in. They were on the sidelines. They did what they were supposed to do. You’ve got basketball players on the court with no mask playing. They’re around the referees just like the cheerleaders are and vice versa so I don’t see what the issue was there,” said Kite. “I foresee some excitement. It’s nice to have a crowd. I’m all about entertainment at these ballgames…I love the music and I love the atmosphere… we’ve got some really good [Athletic Directors] in this area that want to liven that scene up.”
The TSSAA still requires masks, temperature checks, social distancing and venue capacity guidelines. Local Boards of Education still have the authority to place additional guidelines or limitations on games or teams if needed.