SO, WHAT IS CHEERLEADING ANYWAY?
As we prepare to run our first Paracheer workshop I am reminded again that many people don’t know what Cheerleading actually is and that this can be a barrier to people who may be interested but unsure what they are getting themselves into. Ever since we started cheerleading (waaaayyyy back in 2005!) we have encountered people giving us bemused looks when we mention we are cheerleaders and then saying either “I thought they only did that in America” or “is that like, shaking pom poms?”. These days, thanks to films like Bring It On and Fired Up and more television documentaries going behind the scenes to training and competitions, people are starting to realise that Cheerleading involves acrobatic stunts, however I don’t think people really “get” why cheerleaders love doing it SO much. So, here is my attempt to share what cheerleading is to us and why we want to start Paracheer and open the sport up to more people.
1. It is a SPORT
Lets get this simple, but often overlooked fact, out of the way first. Cheerleading is a SPORT. Team members train together on a regular basis as well as doing their own conditioning and fitness training outside of their scheduled team rehearsals. For flyers (those are the people up in the air) stretching every day is essential to maintain the required level of flexibility. It’s about training, practice, commitment, teamwork – all the things you find in any other sport. And it takes WORK – you don’t think that people just wake up one morning and are suddenly able to do something like this, do you?:
And not a pom pom in sight!
2. EVERYONE matters
Cheerleading is the ultimate team sport. Every single person has a responsibility to their team mates to be giving 100% that they can because if just one person doesn’t do their job, then the routine doesn’t work. Flyers may appear to be the most “important” people on the team, but without 3-4 amazing bases underneath them they would just be standing on the floor. In a tumble section if a person who is not tumbling is messing about at the side they can distract the judges eyes away from the person who is. If the person who is at the very back corner of a dance formation doesn’t get to their correct place the entire formation looks odd and the judges may not even notice how great your dance actually is. Feeling important and needed is a natural human desire and in cheerleading, EVERYONE is important and needed.
3. Team = FAMILY
Cheerleading is intense. Working to achieve a routine involves a lot of sweat, almost as many tears and sometimes a little blood. You spend a lot of time with your team mates in an intense environment. You rely on one another. Sometimes you get frustrated and angry at each other. You forgive each other. You form bonds. Your team becomes your family. I am not sure that other sports create the same level of bond between members as cheerleading does because your team mates are at many points actually taking your life in their hands, literally! Which is why, after all those months of hard work, winning first place results in these sorts of reactions:
Notice all the hugging?
4. It builds CONFIDENCE and creates LEADERS
As well as being a sport, cheerleading is also a performance art. One of the things that makes cheerleading so impressive is the attitude of resilience and power that emanates from the participants, or as cheerleaders put it, looking “Fierce”. This attitude may be part of the “act”, part of the display of cheerleading, but it seeps into your soul and over time, the act of getting out on that stage in front of 1000’s of people, giving it your all and looking Fierce as you do it, gives you confidence and makes you a stronger person. It gives you the courage to stand up and say, this is who I am! And from that confidence comes the ability to inspire it in others. As many a wise man has said:
True Leaders don’t create Followers, they create more Leaders
5. It is PROGRESSIVE
I mean progressive in two different ways. Firstly, Cheerleading has many levels and every level is still as exciting and challenging as the others. Sure, it may be more spectacular to watch a level 6 team throw back tuck baskets and flyers fold themselves into terrifying shapes, but every one of those athletes started somewhere else. They started as a newbie. The athletes on a level 1 team still dedicate hours of hard work to forming a routine where the timing is perfect, all their stunts hit, they tumble clean and they dance like they mean it. Cheerleaders support cheerleaders and they do what they do best – they cheer for each other, what ever level those people on the stage are at. Here is an awesome Level 1 team doing their thing.
The second meaning, is that the Cheerleading industry itself is progressive. The sport has grown from historically something done only by American men on the sidelines of their university football team as a way to rev up the crowd, to a competitive sport in its own right that incorporates all genders and ages. It has strict safety guidelines, national federations in many countries and huge amounts of money invested in it. But the International Cheerleading Union keep pushing for more and for better, which is great. The introduction of Paracheer, to open the sport to those with physical disabilities, is an example of this progressive thinking and it is a change we certainly welcome!
So that’s just a few reasons why we love Cheerleading so much. If after reading this you want to find out more and maybe even give cheerleading a go for yourself, get in touch! Our Paracheer Workshop on the 27th July still has spaces, email firstname.lastname@example.org to request an application form.