Competitive cheerleading, like football and basketball, is a sport. Not only is it competitive, but it is also physically demanding. As a former cheerleader myself, I know first-hand how rigorous it can be.
Cheerleaders train just as hard as any other athlete. They spend the same amount of time running routines to make sure they are executed perfectly. Much like a football team running a play, if a routine is not executed the right way, you risk seriously injuring not just yourself, but the flyer as well.
A flyer is the person that you toss into the air. According to the World’s Ultimate website, cheerleading has more injuries and they come after the football season. Our routines consist of multiple tumbles and gymnastic like moves, which means a cheerleader needs extensive experience in both.
I took gymnastics for five to six years before I joined a cheer squad. It’s also helpful to have a dance background.
It’s not just our physical health that is monitored very closely, it’s our diet as well. A cheerleader’s diet consists of carbohydrates, such as pasta or whole grains, calories, fluids and proteins.
Cheerleaders spend hours going over routines and just as much time in the gym. Lifting weights, running laps and doing pushups. They are in the gym at least four times a week. Just like most varsity sports, cheerleading is physically exhausting.
If a cheerleader doesn’t have a healthy workout and diet, then that cheerleader’s peers and coach won’t believe they are at their best.
The coach’s main job is to supervise the practices and to motivate us to perform at our best.
They sometimes lead cheerleaders through routines, but that’s mainly the job of the captain and co-captain. Cheer isn’t just about looking pretty standing on the sidelines at a football game. Cheerleaders also compete at regional, state and national competitions.
Cheer isn’t just a sport, it’s a lifestyle. Cheerleaders spend their entire lives training to be part of a squad. Not only are cheerleaders pressured by their coaches and peers to perform at their best, they’re also pressured my moms who couldn’t be prouder that their little girls are living a dream they might not even want for themselves.
Cheer is not for the faint of heart. In practice, someone is always getting hurt. Whether it’s a bloody nose, a sprained ankle or a black eye, the squad is lucky if they can make it through a practice without injury. Cheer is a very dangerous sport because there are so many ways you can get hurt.
Surprisingly, flyers don’t get hurt nearly as often as the bases do. A base is the person standing on the ground holding or catching the flyer(s). Stunting, lifting flyers into the air so they can do their routines, is one of the most dangerous parts of cheer.
If someone is a base, they have to be very careful. The main reason being, you are supporting the weight of the flyer and if you drop them, they can get seriously hurt.
That’s why coaches have serious consequences for the entire squad if a flyer so much as touches the ground. My coach would make us run laps or do pushups until we couldn’t feel our arms and legs.
On the outside we might just look like a bunch of pretty girls dancing around in short skirts with a pair of pom-poms, but cheer is so much more than that.
Cheer was a serious and important part of my life for five years. It was one of the hardest things I ever did. However, it was also one of the best experiences of my life. Cheer means so many things to so many different people.
For me, cheer isn’t just a sport. It’s a community, much like football players have their team, cheerleaders have their squad. Not only do they become your best friends, they become your family.