A very disturbing video is spreading across the country that shows a man forcing a 13-year-old Denver cheerleader to do the splits.
The man who's pushing down on her is her coach. Simply watching it is hard enough, but hearing it makes it worse. In the video, the girl cries out multiple times in pain, and continually tells her coach to “please stop.”
KGW's sister station KUSA, in Denver, has multiple videos showing the same thing being done to different girls on the team. Denver East High School reportedly has known about at least one of the videos since June.
The coach in the video, along with a handful of other school officials, have been put on leave. Now police in Denver are investigating.
Here in Oregon,16-year-old McKenna Bumgardner saw the video Thursday morning.
“It was rough to watch, to see someone go through that much pain,” she said.
Bumgardner spent years cheerleading and now she coaches 3rd and 4th graders. She's also a competitive dancer.
“It hits home for me.” Bumgardner said what she saw in the video is not OK on any level. “That could seriously injure them. It could make it so they can't cheer or dance anymore.”
Watch the video here (Editor’s note: the video included in this story is difficult to watch and may not be suitable for all viewers)
The Denver girl’s mother said what happened hurt her daughter’s leg.
“This is a grown man pushing my 13-year-old girl so hard against her will, while she's crying and screaming for him to stop, that he's ripping tissues in her body,” said Kirsten Wakefield.
“It's just all wrong. It's mortifying,” said Juli Madill, Bumgardner’s mom. She said watching the video was horrific. “Instantly almost had tears in my eyes. I mean if that was my child...”
She said stretching is important, but not like what was shown in the video.
“That is not stretching. That's breaking them. We're not trying to break a horse or something here. They're children,” she said.
Madill said she thinks the attitude around cheerleading needs to change at some local high schools. Too often the emphasis is on winning a trophy or competition and that sometimes results in pushing athletes too hard.
Melissa Hippe, a cheer coach for the last seven years, agrees.
“I was disgusted. It's horrific. I feel very, very bad for that child,” Hippe said, adding coaches need to be able to know if they're pushing too hard. “As a coach, you have to know what the limit is, and if you don't, I don’t know if that job's for you."
It's worth mentioning, both Hippe and Madill said they have not heard about anything as extreme as what they saw in the video, happening in the Portland area.
Still, Bumgardner said she hopes young athletes remember one thing: “Just speak up for yourself and your body is your body. You know when enough is enough."
The coach in the video tells our affiliate in Denver that he learned the technique illustrated in the video growing up. But the head of a national cheerleading group says those kinds of techniques were used decades ago, and they're outdated and damaging.