5 Lessons From An Ex-Cheerleader
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5 Lessons From An Ex-Cheerleader

Cheer taught me more than how to do splits, flips, and stunts.

5 Lessons From An Ex-Cheerleader
Stephanie Mills

Surprise surprise, I was a high school cheerleader. In middle school, I stared in awe at the varsity cheerleaders on the sidelines of the football field and knew that I wanted to be there someday. Although my cheerleading journey only lasted a short four years, I found real life lessons hidden behind the cute uniform and sparkly pompoms.

1. Be genuine.

It was important to appear at a certain level of "having it all together," but I think it is more important to not get caught up in appearances and to be real. Being a cheerleader was just one aspect to my life. I'm also a friend, sister, daughter, student ... and being genuine to all these roles has helped me find a more balanced life.

2. Hard work pays off.

My high school has a tradition of doing a line of standing back tucks in the end-zone every time our team scored a touchdown. My biggest fear going into my first year as a varsity cheerleader was being that one girl that couldn't participate. For months, I went to the gym, three hours a week to do nothing but work on a standing back tuck. It was tough. It was frustrating, but it was so rewarding the first time I landed on my feet and not on my face, knowing that all my hard work has paid off. Now, I've moved on to bigger and less physically demanding things like studying hard, going to class, and reworking homework problems so that I can make Dean's List at the end of the semester.

3. Be thankful.

There were times that I had to drag my feet to practice and days where I didn't want to have anything to do with a 12 8-count dance, but one day, my coach gave us a long drawn out speech that can be summarized in two words: be thankful. It was a hard earned privilege to be a part of the cheer team that so many girls try out for. This lesson applied then, and it applies now. It's such a blessing to be able to be at Baylor University, to be in a sorority, to be in the classes that I'm taking ... sometimes it's nice to reflect on how not everyone has the same opportunity to do what you do.

4. Bring extra _________ (aka Be Prepared).

Unfortunately, my cheer bag wasn't full of snacks. Somehow I managed to pack in an extra pair of Nike pros, three pairs of mismatched socks, a multitude of hair ties, a fistful of Bandaids, and two bottles of Icy Hot. All this to say, I was usually "The Mom" of the team, and if anyone needed something, more than likely I would have an extra to give away. If you look at my school backpack, you'll find too many pencils to count, a half-empty pack of gum, a random empty folder, and seven blue pens. It may seem like too much, but you never know when the cute guy behind you in class needs a pencil before a test.

5. Stay calm.

I think it was just expected for something to go wrong before a big performance, whether it was at competition, a pep rally, or a football game, but no matter what happened -- a stunt falling, the music stopping, or God forbid your hair falls flat -- the show must go on. The best thing to do in any of these situations is to stay calm and begin figuring out a solution. In real life, so many things get thrown your way and all you can do is stay calm and get started. My dad once said, "Practice being the calmest person in the room during a crisis. It will make you a better leader." And I can attest that he's never steered me wrong.

Cheerleading was one of the most formative experiences that I had the opportunity to be a part of. The sprained ankles, countless hours in the gym, and continually hairspray-tangled hair was worth it -- and I wouldn't trade those for the world.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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