Colts cheerleaders’ season also impacted by coronavirus pandemic

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INDIANAPOLIS – The Colts are gearing up for another win this weekend. They take on the Chicago Bears in Chicago on Sunday.

We’ve talked a lot about what changes NFL players and staff have to make because of the coronavirus but what about the cheerleaders? Things are different for them too.

“I think the biggest change for our team is wearing masks and dancing,” said Colts cheerleader, Mariah.

“We’re not able to dance on the field this year—which stinks, but we’re still able to be in the stadium. I think we’re only one of five teams that get to have fans at the stadium, as well as cheerleaders. So we feel pretty lucky to be there.”

Mariah has been with the team for eight seasons. She says another big change is the amount of in-person appearances they get to do.

“I think our team logs about one-hundred-thousand hours, as a unit, each year in the community,” she explained. “This year we haven’t got the chance to do a whole lot of that.”

The squad has found a way to do some appearances safely by mixing up in-person and virtual events.

“Normally, over the summer we’re packed with appearances,” said Colts Cheer Director, Kelly Tilley. “I mean it’s like a Fan Fest – I would say we’re doing two or three appearances a week – where we didn’t do that much this summer. Besides virtual, but that was the biggest thing we had to get rid of just so we were keeping our cheerleaders safe and also fans safe and making sure we were following the health and safety protocols.”

Tilley says a big word they have been using a lot is “pivot.”

“The cheerleader roles go beyond game day, so I think at the beginning of the season when we didn’t know exactly what it was going to look like [but] we knew we would have a role,” Tilley explained. “We have a large junior cheer program that we knew we could continue. And we could be role models and provide value and instruction to young kids that want to pursue cheer and dance. And so we knew no matter what we were going to do that program.”

Tilley and Mariah say that while it has been a challenging year for everyone, with each challenge they are able to find a positive.

“There’s not been anything that’s been so challenging that we couldn’t get through it,” said Tilley. “Everything has been manageable and there’s always been some other thing or something different—I mean the view where they get to stand for gameday is actually phenomenal.”

“We are the positivity enforcers,” said Mariah. “We promote that and I think just knowing that life is going to hand you circumstances that sometimes are going to be challenging. We love our fans and our organization loves our fans, so it’s just rolling with the punches and being grateful for what we can and appreciating that.”

The Colts take on the Bears Sunday. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.

You can watch it on our partners CBS4.

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