J1 Reporter Megan Szwanek
Whenever someone walks into Marian’s East Gym, he or she is welcomed by the many state titles won by Marian athletes that decorate the walls on royal blue banners. But the feeling is not so satisfying for members of the cheer, dance, and trap teams. For these athletes, there is no grand banner recognizing their state titles and accomplishments because these sports are not part of the NSAA.
The Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) governs and organizes the high school activities and sports programs throughout the state. According to the executive director of NSAA, Dr. Jim Tenopir, a number of schools within the state must be sponsoring that sport or activity, and the activity must pass several districts in order to be considered for NSAA.
Cheer, dance, and trap are just a few of the many sports and activities at Marian that are not a part of NSAA. Because of this, they do not get a banner in the gym or portraits hung in the Quad. Trap team members have their trophies on display outside the S.T.E.M. lab. Cheer and dance have display cases outside of the cafeteria entrance. Some teams and activities, like bowling, end up with their trophies in the moderator’s classroom or office space.
“It’s really frustrating because we work just as hard as any of the other sports,” senior cheerleader Emily Witzenburg said.
According to junior trap team member Sarah Villarreal, “Trap is considered an international sport and is an Olympic event, so it’s weird to me that it’s not considered a sport by the NSAA.” Whether or not a sport or activity is proposed to become a part of NSAA is up to the school administrators across the state.
However, there are reasons why administrators have chosen not to ask the NSAA Board to propose to make these sports a part of NSAA. Unlike other Class A sports, the state championships for cheer, dance, and trap are often nonqualifying, meaning anyone can enter. The challenge and competitiveness to even qualify for a state championship is not present in these sports like it is in soccer and basketball.
Another factor is that not every Class A school has a cheer, dance, or trap team. For example, only 10 out of 28 current Class A schools in Nebraska have a dance team. Compared to other sports that are sanctioned, every single school has a team that competes. In order for a sport to be considered for NSAA, the sport needs to be present in closer to 50 percent participation of schools in the state so that the competition field is more equal to those of other NSAA sports.
But not every sport at Marian wants to be a part of the NSAA. “The cheer team doesn’t really want to be sanctioned by the state as a sport through NSAA because of all of the rules and regulations about practice and stunting,” senior cheerleader Katrina McCutcheon said. What they really want, according to McCutcheon, is recognition in the form of a banner in the gym.
In order for that to happen, the sport must become a part of NSAA. Because there are more than 50 clubs and activities at Marian and limited space in the gym, the administration has to put a limit on which activities are allowed to have banners on the gym walls.
According to Marian’s athletic director, Ms. Rochelle Rohlfs, “We want to make sure that every student at Marian would have the same opportunity to be recognized. If we start [hanging banners] for one group, and deeming them more important than others, we are then dis-including other sports.”
There have been misconceptions regarding the administration’s decision in the past. “I think the portrayal is that we are not recognizing them as sports,” said Rohlfs. “I absolutely believe they are sports, and they are committed, athletic, and talented.”
So what can Marian fans do to make the cheer, dance, and trap teams feel equally as supported as NSAA-sanctioned sports?
Come watch and cheer them on! Just because these sports are not NSAA-sanctioned does not mean they are any less meaningful to the Marian community.