By Mackenzie T., 10th Grade
Walking into my new cheer gym, I was amazed. I remember opening a little wooden door and entering into a huge space with 3 cheer floors and mirrors lined across the wall. Banners hung all across the ceiling and trophies stood along the walls. I immediately was drawn to the ginormous trampoline in the corner. Excited, I tried a backflip on it only to fall on my head and epically fail. Although many critics don’t consider cheerleading as a sport, claiming that it’s all about looks, cheerleading is infact a sport because it requires skill, athleticism and competition.
Obviously it is no secret that the world perceives cheerleading to be about the glitz and the glam and the flaunting of girls’ bodies. This attitude is not surprising since Hollywood has created an image of cheerleaders being rich,skinny,tan,blonde,dumb and stuck up. Movies and shows like Disney Channel’s “The Ant Farm” and “Austin and Ally” portray cheerleaders as clueless, ignorant antagonists. Just like when you go to a bookstore to buy a book, some flashy covers might make you grab those off the shelf first, when in reality the book could be boring and tedious. Although a book with a simple plain cover could be the most thrilling book you have ever read, most people wouldn’t know the truth of the book because they never look further than the cover. The critics of cheerleading are like ignorant bookstore browsers, believing the common stereotype, judging the book by its cover, instead of taking a closer look.
So now let’s take a closer look at what cheerleading really is. Cheerleading requires skill. When I first started cheerleading, I knew nothing, so I got put on the lowest level. At the same time I also started soccer. As the year went on, I realized cheerleading was a sport just like soccer. Both involve running, competing, teamwork, and agility. I was just as exhausted or even more exhausted after cheerleading practice, as I was after soccer practice. At cheer I learned balance by strengthening my core, I improved my agility by gaining speed before a flip, and I mastered body control by focusing.
Cheerleaders have to have athleticism to be able to successfully complete cheer practice every week. A typical cheerleading practice begins with running 10 laps around the cheer floor and then doing a mini workout which consists of jumping jacks, push ups, crunches, ab workouts and lunges. Then we warm up all of our tumbling skills and then we start doing tumbling routines. After those are successful, we warm up our stunts and pyramids; then we start doing stunting routines. We then put stunting and tumbling together. After cheer practice is done, I am usually very sweaty and my body aches and my hair’s all messed up.
All this practice is worth it when competition season comes around. At cheerleading competitions there is around 75 different divisions to compete in and around 3 to 12 teams in each division. Cheerleading has a set of rules just like any other sport. In cheerleading you can have a maximum of 32 girls on a team; the rules for each level of cheerleading are different, but for my level one example of a rule we must follow is that we cannot twist while doing our flips. Just as you can’t go out of bounds in a soccer game, you cannot go out of bounds on a cheer floor. You also get points for doing stunts that are complex and require great skill and balance, but you can get deducted points if you fall in those stunts. Similar to any competitive sport, in cheerleading there are winners and there are losers, and the winner goes home with the trophy, and the loser goes home with nothing.
Although cheerleaders appear to be ditzy, silly blondes, they are actually so much more. Our practices are hard and strenuous because they require skill and athleticism. The reason we have to practice so hard each week is so that we can prepare for our competitions. Often times society forms an opinion about groups of people, and this opinion becomes a stereotype. Believing stereotypes is a reflection of a person’s shallowness and lack of thinking. Instead of believing stereotypes, find out the truth for yourself.