Raider Alley: Tailgating

Texas Tech Pom Squad dances before the start of the Red Raiders' football game against Iowa State. Fans gather for pregame activities at 8:45 a.m. at Raider Alley on Oct. 19, 2019.

The spirit programs at Texas Tech are making plans to comply with new COVID-19 guidelines and they remain hopeful for their future season.

Erin Harold, Tech Pom Squad head coach, said the team is making health a priority by wearing masks, taking temperatures before practice, washing hands frequently, monitoring changes in health and distancing during practices.

“Any type of slight difference in how they’re feeling, they don’t come to practice,” Harold said.

Spirit Program Director Stephanie Rhode said these health and safety precautions are standard across all spirit programs which includes Tech Pom, Cheer, Raider Red and The Masked Rider. 

“We are thankful that our coaching staff and university has allowed us to practice once again, and so we are trying our best to make sure we are keeping ourselves safe,” Austin Bayles, a senior kinesiology major from Hutto and member of Co-Ed Cheer, said. 

Currently, the plans for the spirit programs during football games have not been finalized. However, each of the teams are planning on reducing the number of members from each program in order to comply with capacity guidelines. 

Although having fewer fans will not be the same experience, Bayles said he is happy to still have the opportunity to represent the school at a game with his teammates.

“I know that we all love the ability to go out on gamedays,” Bayles said.  “I’m glad that at least a portion of us can still be out there.”

Tech Pom Squad is trying to be creative and open-minded about their plans for the year in order to give the fans a similar football gameday experience to what they are used to, Harold said. One way this is being done is by prerecording their dances to be aired on the screen at the games.

Appearances are another main task for the spirit programs to take part in throughout the year. Currently, this is primarily being done virtually. The Pom Squad has made videos for a children’s hospital and elementary schools in replacement of in-person appearances.

Rhode said this has also applied to the mascots, who have been making promotional videos for the university rather than doing in-person appearances.

Overall, the spirit programs are focusing on finding ways to benefit the program members this year despite the lack of normalcy.

“We always want to help these students become the best ambassadors of this university that we can,” Rhode said. “I want to help encourage them to become leaders and the people that they’re destined to be.”

Teaching the spirit programs how to persevere through hardships and come out being a stronger and more positive person is the goal Rhode said she has in mind.

As a result of less-busy schedules, Harold said she is looking forward to connecting with her students on a more personal level and helping them get through the uncertainty of COVID-19. 

“I feel like I know them better even though I haven’t been around them as much because I’ve had to have smaller one-on-one conversations with them,” Harold said. 

This year, the Pom Squad is taking advantage of the extra time to educate the team on being leaders, which Harold said she hopes will produce a better and more successful team.

“We know that our program is one of the best in the country, and so I think that the idea that this is going to make us better,” Harold said. “It really excites me to see how that goes into another season.”

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