MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — For the last 30 years cheerleaders in the Mobile County Public School System have been “grounded,” or not allowed to stunt.

The reason is because of a lawsuit that stemmed from a cheering accident. Stunting is when cheerleaders are thrown into the air. It’s a skill used in most college programs. Not having stunting in MCPSS put the cheerleaders at a disadvantage, and if they wanted to learn to stunt, they had to do so with an extracurricular activity. Now that stunting is back, the cheer teams in MCPSS are in what’s called Phase 1 where they’re learning how to stunt safely.

WKRG News 5 went out to Mary G. Montgomery and Vigor High Schools speaking with coaches about the changes to the cheer program.

“I was actually on a middle school squad that Scarboro Middle School when we actually stopped stunting and that was ’87, ’88,” said Vigor Varsity Cheer Coach, Kimebric Windham. “By the time I came to Vigor in 89, the stunt and the lawsuit had done happened and the ban had come into play.”

Mobile County Public Schools decided to ground its teams after that costly lawsuit involving a cheerleader getting hurt during a stunt. The move made Mobile County the district in the state without stunting.

“Just about all of your college teams going to want them to stunt and tumble,” said Windham. “And we can do the tumbling, but we don’t do the stunting because we have been grounded for over 30 years.” 

In 2021, Mobile’s Board of Education decided to reinstate stunting in cheerleading. Now the district is working on phase one.

“They are learning the basics. This is going into preps and pop-offs, which then progress into cradles,” said Mary G. Montogmery varsity cheer Coach Elizabeth Blackburn. “And eventually, when we move into phase two in full stunting, they will be able to go to full extensions.”

The switch saves parents money. Coaches said extra training to learn stunting can cost parents $2,000 to $3,000 dollars.

More than that, stunting’s return is a full circle Coach Windham thought she’d never see. “Mobile County is is is back that we’re back on the market, we’re back competing full-fledged we’re back stunting,” said Windham. “We’re back doing everything that all the cheerleaders in the whole world and especially in Alabama do. And that don’t underestimate us.”

Mary G. Montgomery’s Varsity Cheer team came to WKRG News 5 studios showing off their high-flying skills. Here’s a transcript:

Bill: Cheerleaders from Mary G. Montgomery are here to let you know about a change in cheerleader rules and to show us some of their moves believe it or not. There they are.

Jessica: There they are. The varsity cheer squad from Mary Montgomery High School here at WKRG News five this morning showing off some of these new moves live. A lawsuit after an injury 30 years ago kept Mobile County cheerleaders grounded. But this rule change is changing that.

Bill: Yeah, they’ll be able to fly like other squads in the air. It also has some other advantages. Elizabeth Blackburn is with us right now to talk about some of the changes that are in effect. Good morning.

Elizabeth Blackburn/Varsity Coach: Good morning. And thank you all so much for having us.

Jessica: We are glad you’re here. Tell us about stunting, what that is and what it means for these cheerleaders.

Elizabeth Blackburn: So a stunt, in general, is where I top person is supported from the performance surface, whether that’s a mat or a football, the grass on a football field by one or more people. So that’s our actual stunt definition and we’re super excited. So yes, we are finally getting to actually not be ground-bound. So we’re in Mobile county in phase one, meaning that our resting place can only go to our shoulders.
So we’re not we are allowed to pass through extension, but we must stay here.

Jessica: So just getting started, get this, it’s a big deal for these cheerleaders, specifically cheerleaders who would like to cheer after high school. These are skills that they would need to cheer in college. Talk about that.

Elizabeth Blackburn: So for Mobile County, if they were a senior athlete trying to go tryout, they had this huge advantage because they didn’t get that. So they would have to go to outside gyms, scheduled privates and their parent’s guardians had to spend a ton of extra money for them to learn these new skills, whereas everyone else in the state was already learning that at their school. So for these students to finally be able to do this is fair, is huge for Mobile County.

Bill: These are things if you look at a cheerleading squad, many across the country, some may or may not, but some things you expect to see cheerleaders do like holding folks up real high pyramid things. Yes, stuff like that, right?

Elizabeth Blackburn: Yes, sir. Absolutely. So on Friday nights are on pep rallies. They’ll finally get to do that on the sideline.

Jessica: And we’re watching them now live in our parking lot. They look like they’re having a lot of fun. I think they’ve got a cheer coming in.

Bill: How many cheerleaders did you bring in?

Elizabeth Blackburn: I brought 22 with us.

Bill: Oh, wow. Okay. Like I’m got. There we go. Okay. Now, is that stunning?

Elizabeth Blackburn: Yes, sir. This is stunting. So this is our top girl in that area, in our preparatory what they call preparatory. And then the girls on the bottom are our bases. And back spots.

Jessica: Oh, they have a lot of this.

Bill: I’ve seen them you’ve tossed somebody up in the air and caught them. Can you do that?

Elizabeth Blackburn: That so we can do what we call a cradle shy from their resting area? I’m not sure if they might do one from their resting area. They are allowed to toss and catch, but we are not allowed to do what a considered a basket where their feet right and right and.

Jessica: Mobile County allowing is allowing stunting now. That is very Montgomery High School.

Bill: There you go.

Jessica: Glad to have them this morning. Glad to have you.

Elizabeth Blackburn: Thank you all so much for having us.

Bill: All right. It’s varsity coach Elizabeth Blackburn. Thanks so much.