Cheerleaders: Breaking The Stereotype

Cheerleaders: Breaking The Stereotype

We're replacing the pep with sweat and not going down without a fight!
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Everything has a stereotype. No matter where you look, you can find a preferred social view that is either accepted or detested by the surrounding community. One that I would like to touch on in particular is the stereotype that encompasses cheerleaders and cheerleading as a sport. Being that I have lived the sport for over half of my life, I am nowhere near ignorant when it comes to the words and images that accompany the thought of cheerleading.

Based on what movies and television have taught us, cheerleaders are expected to be tall, skinny, have long, silky locks of hair that are typically blonde or brown, and have an incredible amount of "pep." On an average day, these perfect models of cheer culture can be found in their school's uniform of choice, including, but not limited to, the short skirts and revealing tops. I can't blame anyone for following this stereotype because that is just what we are taught. Cheerleaders are supposed to be the most school spirited individuals within a five mile radius of any facility containing a football or basketball team.

To further prove my point, simply search the word "cheerleader" on Google images. This is the result you will get:

About 90% of the pictures on the first page of this search display cheerleaders from professional sports teams. In reality, the cheerleaders who accompany the Detroit Lions or Dallas Cowboys are more of a dance team than anything. If you want results displaying competitive cheerleaders who fight for world titles, and train for over 30 hours a week, try searching "all star cheerleading." This is the kind of sport that I am accustomed to, and that I wish more people saw and understood. This is what you will see when you refine your search:

Another aspect of the cheer stereotype that causes some concern for me is that we all have to essentially be 5'9" and 110 pounds. Being 5'1" and definitely not 110 pounds, it worries me that there are girls out there that are striving for unrealistic body proportions because they believe that is what is required of them.

I went into more research about this and was slightly confused with what I found. I was once told that it would be cool to try out for the Detroit Lions cheer team, but having missed the deadline, I decided to just read about it for future reference. Aside from not meeting the minimum age requirement, there were some other topics in the FAQ's that caught my eye. For example, they home page struck me as more of a dance-centered job listing than for a team. Instead of advertising a try out, they refer to it as an audition. They also explain that being a part of the program includes no vocals (this consists of sideline cheers and crowd chants) and no stunting (pyramids, for those who are unfamiliar).

Reading further into the frequently asked questions regarding the program, I found a section labeled "Are there any physical requirements?" The heading alone made me nervous. The first bullet point was all I needed to see. They state that they do not have physical requirements, but go on to suggest recommended expectations. Taken directly from the sheet, the organization states "You should look well-proportioned in dancewear as a lean figure is demanded by our uniforms." Sure, they aren't explicitly telling us that to be accepted onto the team you have to be skinny, but they are choosing their words carefully to insinuate exactly that. If they didn't want there to be a requirement, then they would not have felt obligated to word it in that way. By doing this, it becomes an unspoken rule at the very least. Following is a screen clipping from the requirements page.

By writing this article, I no way intend to criticize the Detroit Lions cheer team or program. As a cheerleader, I feel that it is my job to squash the unflattering stereotypes that come along with the sport. I fully support anyone who was, is, or will be on that team, or any team. I do believe that cheerleaders for professional teams have become more centered around dance and image, though. For all I know, that could be me one day standing on the sidelines at Ford Field. If and when that happens, I know that I will be doing it solely for my love of the sport and not for publicity reasons. Next time you think of cheerleading, maybe try to see it from the perspective of a hard working athlete instead of what you might see as a bottle-blonde girl with poms and a short skirt.
Cover Image Credit: Maggie Marion

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it

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Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

Cover Image Credit: wordpress.com

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The First Time My Mistakes No Longer Controlled My Life

Mistakes suck, and though I've conquered a few, I'm still learning.

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The whistle blows as the team cheers on.

My heart pounds as if it will burst out of my chest at any given moment and I taste the salty sweat trickling down my face. I must serve over the net, I must get it in, I must ace my opponent or I will fail. Fear.

In his first inaugural speech, President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously stated, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Such a statement proves powerful to the matured minds of society; however, in the minds of some adolescents, this declaration appears somewhat foolish, as numerous "threats" ignite fear, thus causing teens to grow anxious.

A major cause for fear in the rising generation takes form in failure. In the eyes of these people, making a simple mistake paves the way towards absolute failure; therefore, perfectionists constantly walk on eggshells attempting to do the impossible: avoid human error. This mentality gives way to constant stress and overall disappointment, as perfection does not apply to human beings. If one can come to the realization that not one person can attain perfection, they can choose to live life in ease, for they no longer have to apply constant pressure upon themselves to master excellence. The fear of failure will no longer encumber their existence, and they can overcome situations that initially brought great anxiety. I too once put great pressure on myself to maintain perfection, and as a result, felt constantly burdened by my mistakes. However, when I realized the inevitability of those mistakes, it opened the door for great opportunities. The first time I recognized that failure serves as a tool for growth allowed me to no longer fear my mistakes, and instead utilize them for my own personal growth.

The whistle blows as the team cheers on. My heart pounds as if it will burst out of my chest at any given moment, and I taste the salty sweat trickling down my face. I must serve over the net, I must get it in, I must ace my opponent. As hard as I try, I fail; as the ball flies straight into the net and thuds obnoxiously onto the gym floor, so does my confidence. I feel utter defeat, as I know my fate. My eyes water as my coach immediately pulls me from the game, sits me on the bench, and tells me to "get my head into the game" instead of dwindling on past errors. From then on I rarely step foot on the court, and instead, ride the bench for the remainder of the season. I feel defeated. However, life does not end, and much to my surprise, this mistake does not cause failure in every aspect of my life. Over time, I gradually realize that life does not end just because of failure. Instead, mistakes and failure pave the way toward emotional development and allows one to build character. In recognizing that simple slip-ups do not lead to utter failure, I gain perspective: one's single mistake does not cause their final downfall. Thus, this epiphany allowed for my mental growth and led me to overcome once challenging obstacles.

Instead of viewing mistakes as burdens, one should utilize them as motivation for future endeavors. The lesson proves simple: all can learn from their mistakes. However, it is a matter of choosing to learn from these mistakes that decide one's future growth. Instead of pushing faults away, I now acknowledge them in order to progress. Before coming to such a realization, I constantly "played it safe" in sports, fearing that giving my best effort would lead to greater error. I did not try, and as a result, I rarely failed.

Although such a mentality brought forth limited loss in terms of overall team success, it also brought forth limited, individual success. Today, fear of failure no longer controls life on the court. I use my mistakes as motivation to get better; instead of dwindling on an error made five minutes prior, I focus on the form needed to correct it. As a result, skills will constantly improve, instead of regress. Thus, errors serve as blessings, as it is through these errors in which one can possess the motivation to better themselves.

For some, fear acts as an ever-present force that controls every aspect of life. In particular, the fear of failure encumbers perfectionists, as the mere thought of failing causes great anxieties. In the past, I have fell victim to the fear of committing a mistake, and as a result, could not go through life without feeling an overwhelming sense of defeat. However, in a moment of what appeared to be a great failure, I finally recognized that life does not end due to one mistake, let alone one million. Instead, mistakes pave the way toward personal development and provide essential motivation to succeed in everyday life. Without mistakes, it proves difficult to grow in character. One must first learn to accept their faults before they can appreciate their best qualities. Thus, the fear of failure inhibits the growth of an individual; therefore, all must come to the realization that essentialness of mistakes, as they allow for the further development of overall character.

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