I Hope My Daughters Are Cheerleaders
Okay, I feel like I should preface this with saying I don’t actually care if my daughters are cheerleaders. Of course I will encourage them in anything! (mostly) that they want to do. I just know a lot about cheerleading, and I think it’s really fun. Also there will be a lot of people that will probably be surprised if my daughters never at least try it. Anyways, back to the post. I just want to prevent anyone from getting mad about living vicariously through my children, pushing my dreams, blah..blah..blah…
I was a competitive cheerleader for ten years. I was never great at it, but I loved it, and it pushed me way out of my comfort zone. My mom signed me up when I was in 4th grade as a birthday present, and I just never stopped. My cheerleading coach had to shut down her gym in order to get me out of there. And I still hang around. HA.
It is safe to say, that cheerleading was probably one of the most influential things that I did growing up. I didn’t go to youth group, didn’t play any other sports seriously, and wasn’t musical, at all. I was at the cheer gym whenever I could get a ride over there, and when I wasn’t, I was watching videos on YouTube and dreaming up stunts and tumbling passes that would push the boundaries.
When I found out I was pregnant with a girl, of course my mind immediately went to competitive cheer! Although the closest cheer gym is 40 minutes away, and I’m all for letting my kids do what they are passionate about, I really hope at least one of my daughters shows interest in some sort of cheerleading.
Some of the best friends I ever made were made through competitive cheerleading. We spent hours together in the gym, travelling to competitions, and working together toward the same goal. It seemed as though even the hours we didn’t have to be together, we chose to be.
There is something special about cheerleading vs. other sports in this aspect. Because it is a “club” or “travel” team, you go on trips together, and often spend more time practicing than in other sports. I was with some of the same girls for all ten years of my cheerleading career. The ones that were there from the beginning are still some of my best friends, today. We didn’t even live in the same town.
The friendships that I have made through cheerleading are unmatched in time spent together, places traveled together and just utter weirdness.
Goal Setting & Teamwork
If you are on a truly competitive team, the goal is to win. I am grateful that I had a coach who pushed us, and let us know that winning was important. There is a lot of emphasis now on just having fun, which is super important, but winning is too.
With the common goal of winning, there are a lot of steps that need to be taken to get there. With tumbling and jumping, you may be setting personal goals. “I need my standing tuck by nationals.” With stunting and the overall routine, you are setting team goals. “Let’s hit this pyramid by the end of practice.” And the over-arching goal of hitting these smaller goals, is to win.
Now that I’m older, I find myself drawn more to physical activity that has measurable goals similar to cheerleading. I love running and lifting weights because when I get better, it’s more obvious to me than other activities like basketball or soccer.
Great Reward & Great Disappointment
I still remember one of the best times of my “cheerleading career”. We were at a national competition in Anaheim, CA, and we beat California All-Stars. That probably means nothing to someone who doesn’t know anything abour cheerleading, but we were a tiny gym and they are huge. Still huge. And they win a lot. It was an amazing feeling, and I remember crying and wearing my cheap “National Champion” jacket around like i was a BOSS. (Because let’s face it, I was.)
Not too long before that, was also one of the more (I don’t say most, because there are a lot of these) embarrassing moments. We were in Florida at arguably the biggest cheerleading competition I had attended up until that point. I had just gotten my round-off tuck, and went to do it in the tumbling section of our routine. I flipped, and BOOM. Landed on my knees. Instead of getting up and gracefully moving to my next spot, I crawled like a cave-woman, backwards, to the back of the mat.
Learning how to accept wins and losses with grace (not physical grace as mentioned above, just grace in how I handled them) has given me skills that have transferred over to my adult life. When things don’t go my way, I still get upset, but am able to use those “losses” to set new goals, and figure out which tasks I need to complete in order to achieve them.
Athletic Ability & Fitness
I am tall. 5’10. In high school, the volleyball and basketball coaches all were after me. Until I came to open gyms or tryouts.. then they avoided me like the plague. HA. Seriously though, I don’t know why, but I lacked a lot of coordination and skill when it came to basketball or volleyball. It was probably nothing a few years of practice couldn’t fix, but I was impatient, and at that point, already in love with cheerleading.
Therefore, cheerleading was what taught me to exercise. It was awesome too, because I could do things my friends couldn’t do. Backflips and throwing people in the air, and fun stuff like that. It kept me in shape, and taught me the importance of exercise.
There is something about performing in front of a crowd that just gives you confidence. I was never shy, but I did struggle with self esteem issues, especially in high school. Whenever I was out on the mat though, lifting girls, flipping, and honestly having the time of my life, I was as confident as the next girl. I loved being on stage so much, that my best friend and I decided to do a “duo” together at nationals. We choreographed a routine to “Freak” themed music, and did in front of a crowd of at least 1,000 people. That takes confidence.
Having girls (or guys) around you that are all rooting for you helps with that as well. In other sports, there can often be a competition to be the best one on the team – score the most goals, baskets, run the fastest, whatever. In cheerleading though, you honestly want everyone to be as good as they can be, because that makes the whole team look better.
Most of all, cheerleading is FUN. I got to go Disneyland, Vegas, Florida, the Bahamas, and more with all of my best friends. I got to dance, flip and jump in front of huge crowds. Performing was awesome, but winning was the best. Even when we didn’t win though, it made us that much more excited to get to practice and work our butts off for the next weekend.
The things I learned in cheerleading will stick with me for the rest of my life.