I figured it was finally time to discuss my other love: Cheerleading. I happened onto it purely by accident. My love began at the beginning of 8th grade when a few of my friends wanted to tryout for the squad and asked me to come along. At this point my whole idea of being a cheerleader was associated with someone who was kind of dumb and usually blonde. So I happily joined my friends as a bit of a joke since I knew I was not going to make the squad.
But I did make the squad.
“Ok” I thought. This could be be something to do when I’m not in Tae Kwon Do. My martial arts friends kind of gave me some flack for it but whatever, they didn’t go to my school so I didn’t have to see them. And cheering in 8th grade was really easy and typical of how cheerleaders were portrayed in movies at that time.
The real work didn’t begin until I got into high school. Prior to starting my freshmen year I had a look at what extracurricular programs I could be a part of. Band was one of my options and cheerleading the other. The band wasn’t go great, but the cheerleaders were phenomenal! So that influenced my decision and I tried out again. I made the team again. And not without a lot of blood, sweat and tears.
Over the course of those 4 years, my team won several competitions including State Championships and 4th place in regionals. Individually I earned the title of UCA All-Star and performed in London, England for their 2001 New Years Parade. After graduating high school, I stayed on as a freshmen coach and cheered for the Collegiate Open Team my high school coach Lisa created. We won a National Championship under the coaching of Jeff, who left that program to take over Wilmington University’s program and lead them to 5 National Victories. (He has since retired and the team won a sixth title this past January!)
Things I have learned from being a part of this wonderful sport and how they prepared me for my career:
•Being part of a team and knowing that every person on the team is important.
•Persistence. Those routines are tough on the body and took up a massive chunk of our schedule. We didn’t always win a trophy or place at all. When you work so hard only to come up short it can be disheartening. That’s when we had to dig the deepest and continue to show up.
•Stage presence. I would be much more fearful of a live audience in theater if I didn’t have cheer experience first.
•Voice projection. No one can hear “Go Big Blue!” over a large crowd if you’re talking at a normal decibel.
•Adaptation. My coach changed her mind a lot, so I’m used to going with the flow.
•Being easily coached. When you’re in theater you have to take direction from the director. Having to be part of a sport where taking direction can make or break a routine makes that a cake walk.
•Toughness. Stunts are dangerous and because I was a Backspot, I was responsible for making sure my flyer didn’t end up in the hospital or die. I got clobbered often as a result.
•Broken Stereotypes. I quickly learned that all cheerleaders are not dumb and blonde. I learned that dumb isn’t sport or hair color specific. And blondes are very nice people.
All in all, I still love my sport even though I’m no longer in it. Maybe someday in the future I’ll do a season on an open team. But for now I will just remember it fondly.