The world sees cheerleaders as groups of bouncing blonde boobs with gigantic bows, sparkly uniforms, and a tendency to skip around in short skirts. And, at least partially, that stereotype is absolutely true. I cheered for roughly a decade, at the middle school, high school, allstar, and college level, and I fit every single one of those criteria with a smile on my face. Part of the job of being a cheerleader is to know that the majority of people think that the entire “sport,” if they bother to call it that at all, is stupid. I don’t mind people being convinced it’s not a sport, or even calling it stupid, but it is irritating when people say it looks easy. It’s easy because we make it look that way, not because it is.
The truth is that cheer taught me more in college than some (read: all) of my classes ever could. In class I sat and I listened to someone tell me things about the world; in cheer, I experienced them firsthand. I think that’s something any athlete, especially a college athlete, can relate to. In college more is expected of you than ever before; I balanced school and classes with being in a sorority and holding down a job, in addition to being a cheerleader. That shit is real, and it’s hard. But it taught me more than anything I learned in a textbook. Here are a few things I held onto that cheer taught me better than anything else.
Conquer Your Fears
I’m a top girl, meaning I’m the one that is being lifted/tossed into stunts by my bases, and I loved it. But when my coach asked me to try a basket toss I’d never done before, a back tuck basket, I was terrified. It basically involves my bases crisscrossing their hands, throwing me into the air, and me flipping backwards in a tuck motion. I was shaking uncontrollably when I first tried, but I took a deep breath and I went for it. It was amazing, and much easier than I’d actually anticipated. As a top girl, I got used to being put in extremely dangerous situations every day. I tumbled on concrete, and I stunted on concrete, knowing if I fell I’d crack my skull or worse. In real life, conquering your fears might not mean being thrown into the air—it might mean asking someone out, or volunteering to read your work at an open mic night. Whatever it is, go for it. Don’t let anything hold you back. There’s no greater thrill than doing what completely exhilarates you.
Prove Them Wrong
As mentioned above, people already have a pre-formed stereotype against cheerleaders in their head, which is fine. I can’t count how many guys looked at me in my cheer uniform and immediately assumed I was a slut in a short skirt or couldn’t string two words together because my bubbliness indicated a low IQ. People do that in real life too. There’s no point in arguing with stupid people—the best thing, I’ve found, is just to prove them wrong. There are few things more gratifying than the look on a guy’s face when he sees you in class and realizes you’re the cheerleader he was making fun of at the game, AND the girl who had the highest midterm grade.
Tough It Out
Cheerleaders get hurt. A lot. The sport is notorious for injuries, and while a lot of those happen because of people practicing improper technique, it’s also because we do some dangerous shit. I can’t count the number of times I’ve fallen on my head from a stunt. I’ve broken fingers, nearly bitten through my bottom lip on about ten occasions, and those are just the bad days. Even on a good day there’s a likely chance you’re battling a sprain or a deep bruise or taking a minute to stuff some tissue up your bloody nose. I’ve sent bases to the ER for stitches or with concussions, on accident of course, but it happens. What you realize is that everyone gets hurt at some point, and what matters more is how you handle it. No one cares that you’re bleeding from a fingernail scratch. Put it into perspective, slap a Band-Aid on that sucker, and get back in the stunt. Same goes in reality. Maybe it’s a long day at work, maybe you got your heart broken and have been crying for months. Sometimes you just gotta put your head down and tough it out.
Trust Your Team
On the flip side, there are some things that are too big to handle alone. I couldn’t have tossed myself into the air without my bases, let alone have kept myself from smacking into the ground. Cliché as it is, sometimes you need hands to catch you—literally and figuratively. If you depend only on yourself, you’re limited. There are things you can accomplish by relying on your friends (or sisters) that you never could’ve dreamed of on your own. Having a team there to back me up, to help me and to catch me anytime I was trying something new and scary made anything seem possible.
Well, there you have it—advice from a pair of blonde bouncing boobs. Do with it what you will. Or call me crazy and don’t listen to a word of it. I’ll just go about proving you wrong anyway.