Terrorism, world wars, invasions, and general disagreement are conflicts that have turned humans against each other since the beginning of time. However, institutions and beliefs such as religion and education manage to pull some of us into peaceful unities. A prominent belief that has such an effect is the running inside joke of the universe that “cheerleading isn’t a sport.” If you try to say that you haven’t heard this phrase before, then you are a big, fat liar.
Last year was my first year as a cheerleader. In all honesty, before I cheered I used to stick my nose up when I heard about cheerleading like most people do. In my first week of cheer, after being asked to do the splits in midair and smile for the duration of it, I became a believer. Since then, I have learned to smile and shake my head when someone talks down to me about cheering. That, however, is not the end of what I can contribute to this topic.
To me, cheerleading’s challenges are organized into 2 categories: material and expectations. In most other sports, you show up the first day having only picked the dried mud off your cleats from the previous season while waiting for your carpool. If you’re a cheerleader, you’ve perfected brand-spanking-new routines, dusted off that midair split I mentioned before, and used up all your Sensidine toothpaste from weeks of Crest Whitening Strips. To my disadvantage, you can’t show up to try-outs and hope you get off by whooing and jumping up and down.
Just as a team memorizes plays, cheerleaders memorize up to 30 cheers and 5-7 band/hip-hop dances. Unlike the belief that we brush each others’ hair during practice, we actually drill these routines until we look in sync and sharp. This takes us a lot of time and effort as a squad, and forces everyone to be put on the spot if they don’t know the material.
The biggest event of the season for a Mariemont cheerleader is CHLs. In order to prepare for this, we learn a “short” dance, a “long” dance, a full cheer, and a chant. We preform these in a competition with tons of other highly aggressive squads. We have only a few weeks to perfect the entire routine before they are presented to a row of judges rating our every move. The stress is real for CHLs, and I advise everyone to give a cheerleader a hug during the weeks leading up to it.
The most important part I find in all of this is the expectations our coaches and community have for us. As cheerleaders, we are inevitably expected to be the smiling forefront of our school. During a difficult practice in field sports, panting and grimacing is tolerated. While we are challenged mentally, and physically, we take it with a smile. In cheerleading, no matter what we are doing, we are expected to be lively and bright. This expectation becomes a reality because we all want to be there and have fun with what we do.
Cheerleading has been one of the hardest, but most fun activities I have participated in. The time and effort we put in is something that should be recognized by people all over, for every cheer squad. The amount of flak we get for being dumb and not working is dissapointing but not discouraging.
After all, you did just learn a new lesson directly from a cheerleader. Go warriors!