WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – A video showing a Denver high school student being forced into the splits has caused Wichita cheer coaches to speak out against the incident.
The graphic video shows several girls and a cheer coach repeatedly forcing a crying teen into a split position even after she screams for them to stop.
Wichita’s Cheer Eclipse All-Star Cheerleading and Tumbling Academy took to social media on Thursday condemning the actions of the coach and teammates. The post said in part:
This is NOT common practice in reputable programs and schools. There is NO excuse for behavior such as this.
“It’s been heavy on our hearts and minds as gym owners and coaches at Cheer Eclipse,” said Cheer Eclipse Owner Susan Brummer. “I want to say especially this is not an acceptable practice or is it customary training methods in our sport, especially for those of us who are certified and credentialed coaches.”
Brummer, who has been coaching competitive cheer for more than 20 years, said the splits is a learned skill; a skill that times a lot of training to learn.
She said she and her coaches preach safety and perfection before progression.
“There’s just a right way and a correct way to produce flexibility and it’s just not doing it that way. We work on stability and mobility first before we even get to flexibility and then strength is the predecessor to all flexibility, so there is a lot of steps to be taken properly,” Brummer said.
KSN showed the video to the head cheer coach at Wichita North High School.
“You can’t force them do that,” said head coach Gina Toscano.
Toscano said the splits is not a required skill for her cheerleaders.
“Some girls, you know, have participated in sports, have been in cheer for years and won’t have a complete split, so that’s just the way it goes,” Toscano said.
She said during tryouts there are a number of things she looks for when selecting her team.
“When you try out you go off a point system. You go off of chant, jumps, cheering, the dance portion, you know, your personality out on your floor,” she said.
Toscano said her cheerleaders do not often perform the splits at practice. She said they do, however, focus a lot of time on stretching.
“We practice kicks. We definitely make sure that the girls are stretched or the guys are stretched out,” Toscano said.
Overall, both coaches said they were disturbed by the Denver video.
“They are in the wrong because that is not how we work with our athletes nor should anyone,” Brummer said.
Denver police are investigating the incident. Five school employees, including the cheer coach, have been put on leave.