A former professional cheerleading coach, who went viral for flipping and tossing his young daughter in the air, has introduced the sport to his infant son — to the shock of his followers.
Roland Pollard of North Texas shared a TikTok video of himself flipping his son Jax in the air, as the infant twirls, then lands squarely in the palm of his hand. Balancing the boy by his bottom, Roland then guides him into a standing position. "Say hi, everybody," he says in the video with 5.6 million likes and 40.5 million views, captioning it, "Jax, trying to be like his big sister!" In a second video, Roland's wife Stephanie tries holding her son upright by his feet.
Followers found the duo "adorable," "awesome" and "incredible" but others were jittery. "No way this is real," "Why risk a baby's life for a trick or a video" and "I'm sorry, but this just isn't safe," read a few comments. "Not with my baby. No way." Commenters said it was a game of Russian Roulette and accused the dad of digital editing.
When one wrote, "Anything could've happened. Your baby would be seriously injured if he fell," Roland responded, "Or, I could have just caught him perfectly because this is easy to me."
His followers know this to be true, as Roland went viral last March when a video posted to Instagram showed him practicing a move with his daughter Jayden, now 5, a budding gymnast with her own YouTube channel boasting 200,000 subscribers.
Roland's recent video was a tribute to Jayden's very first twirl, performed at her brother's same age.
"There hasn't been one week in the past 13 years during which I have not held a human [like that]," Pollard, 30, tells Yahoo Life. As a 17-year-old in Plano, Pollard joined the high school cheerleading team at the urging of the coach, who believed his body strength made him a perfect "base," the person who lifts the "flier" in the air and supports their weight. "People who didn't know me threw judgment but that ignorance never fazed me as a kid," he says.
Roland runs Spirit Vibe Productions, a company that makes custom routine music for competitive cheerleading competitions and helps Jayden practice gymnastics. "She practices four days a week and she's a beast, very seasoned," says the proud dad. "She loves it." And Jayden has local fans. "Every time we leave the house, people come up to us," says Roland. "If we go to a restaurant, forget it, it's game over. Someone will always say, 'We love your videos' or 'I had the same relationship with my dad.'"
Stephanie, a former cheerleader who is seen in his latest video spotting her son, gets "hateful messages" too. "She is a health and fitness coach and has a masters in health science," says Roland. "People act crazy and leave unsolicited comments." He adds, "Little do they know, I used to [do these] stunts with my wife all the time before we had kids."
Roland would not attempt a move he wasn't "100 percent confident in hitting" but admits to the sport's "huge liability" and taboo factor. In high school, he accidentally dropped a cheerleader on her face, although she was not seriously injured. "I cried in front of the entire school," he recalls. In his base position, "You sacrifice your body for the flier's safety. If she's falling, you dive on the floor so she can land on you. It's a pact to never let your partner touch the ground."
"At the end of the day, I am used to catching 120-pound humans," he says, "and if my 14-pound son were to fall, I'd catch him too."
Still, Pollard says he wouldn't pressure Jax to follow in his sister's footsteps. "People think we are a circus family but we have day jobs. We don't do this 24/7." Jayden cherishes how the sport bonds her and Roland. "She thinks daddy is cool."
Read more from Yahoo Life:
Christian dad goes viral for supporting transgender daughter. Here’s why that’s so powerful
Want lifestyle and wellness news delivered to your inbox? Sign up here for Yahoo Life’s newsletter.