Rieder turns down Jazz
It wasn’t really something that Lakeland High School grad Abby Rieder wanted to do. She was simply helping out some friends who needed a workout partner as they tried out for the Utah Jazz stunt cheer team.
Next thing she knew, Rieder’s friends had talked her into trying out. And just a few days later, she was selected to be a member of the NBA team’s stunt squad. Pretty heady stuff.
By the middle of July, Rieder was prepping to be part of the entertainment at about one-third of Utah’s home games.
And then she wasn’t, deciding instead to come home and continue her master’s degree studies at the University of Scranton.
How does that happen? It’s a long story, one that really started in 2013 when Rieder, an alumna of the United Sports Academy in Dunmore, earned a gymnastics scholarship at Brigham Young University.
“It’s kind of crazy,” said Rieder, 24, who lives in Montdale. “I was on the BYU gymnastics team for two years and I had two surgeries. I thought, maybe I’ll try out for the cheerleading team. It might be more fun.”
Rieder had been a cheerleader at Lakeland, and after gymnastics injuries led to one surgery on a torn rotator cuff in her shoulder, and another on her ankle, she made the switch.
For two years, she was part of the football cheer squad at BYU, and remained in Utah after she graduated and while she searched for somewhere to pursue her master’s.
Meanwhile, she kept stunting with her cheer friends who planned to work out for the co-ed Jazz squad.
“All of a sudden they’re saying to me, ‘We’re trying out for Utah Jazz stunt team and you should totally try out.’ I was thinking I don’t want to try out if I’m not going to make it.
“They finally convinced me to try out. I figured I had nothing to lose.”
The field was whittled until Jazz squad coach Summer Willis informed Rieder she was one of about 25 men and women who would comprise the team.
“I was really excited to make the team,” Rieder said.
At the same time, most of the women on the squad were products of nearby Weber State, where Willis coached.
“Also, I didn’t know anybody,” Rieder said. “All of the girls on the Jazz squad cheered for Weber State. I was just a little nervous because I was the only girl that didn’t have connections to Weber State, so I didn’t know any of the girls.”
So, she weighed the pros and cons of staying with the squad while she applied at the U of S.
“I started to question whether I want to come back. And I might never, ever have an opportunity to do that again. I thought, maybe it’s okay to take a year off from school and do this as a side job.
“I was nervous I would have so much fun I wouldn’t want to go back to school. I was really, really torn. It was a hard decision.”
Finally, just days before the semester started at Scranton, Rieder decided to turn down the Jazz.
“I always wanted to get my master’s in clinical mental health counseling, and I always kind of wanted to come back to Pennsylvania and get my license here, and give back to my community,” Rieder said.