Cheerleaders: Breaking The Stereotype

Cheerleaders: Breaking The Stereotype

We're replacing the pep with sweat and not going down without a fight!

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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The Universal Love Of Soccer

Wrapped up in the beauty of a sport.

As a kid, I remember my parents signing me, along with my older siblings, up for a recreational soccer league. They enrolled us in a multitude of different activities as well, from dance to tennis to martial arts. But little did I know that I would later find myself coming back to soccer in my middle school years where I played for about two years on an Athena A travel league, and would later find myself in high school not being able to go a week without kicking or at least juggling the ball for a couple of minutes a day. Even though I no longer play for a competitive travel league and have instead picked up a passion for running, I still find myself loving the beauty behind the sport itself. If you’ve never played the sport before or are on the verge of giving it a try, these perks of the sport prove that soccer is the world's language for people of all ages and is mending the world's diversity through the love of one simple team sport.

1. Location is never an excuse.

When it comes to playing a game or just playing by yourself, you can pretty much find anywhere to kick. Other sports, like tennis, have to be played in its specific location -- on a tennis court -- and although some sports can technically be replicated in other areas, it’s not the most fitting as soccer is in just about any place. I remember being on vacation in Mexico one summer, and playing soccer with complete strangers who I’d never met before, on the beach, using random sticks we found to create markings for two goal posts and kicking barefoot on the sand. Whether it’s in the middle of the street in your neighborhood or at an actual soccer park, you can find pretty much anywhere to start a pickup game with anyone.

2. Accessibility

Whereas other sports require a ton of equipment, soccer is beautiful in its simplicity. Although some sports, such as football also follow this “simplicity rule” of just needing a ball and you’re good, the majority of other sports don’t carry the same way. For example, in volleyball, it’s difficult to play the sport without a net, which is unlikely to be randomly carrying around, or in basketball without a hoop. Soccer is one of the simplest sports to play, with only truly requiring one piece of equipment, a ball, if you just want to pass with other people or train by yourself.

3. Learnability

Whereas many sports ential complicated rules, soccer is universally much easier to understand how to play. Because there aren’t constricting positions in a pickup game, anyone can shoot or defend at any time or have fun doing anything in between. Other sports, such as football or basketball, that have more rules than soccer make the game harder to learn for anyone, whether they’re little kids or adults. Soccer isn’t a sport that requires for all players to be able to speak the same language either -- body language is key in the sport, to communicate with other players on a simpler and universal basis.

4. Weather permitting

The aspect I probably love most about soccer is that it can be played just about anywhere. Whether it’s an indoor league, outside on a hot summer day or in the pouring rain on muddy grass, the sport is always enjoyable in just about any circumstance. Because many parks are switching from grass to turf fields, this makes it much easier to play on a reliably flat surface, whereas other sports, such as tennis require a non-rainy day.

Cover Image Credit: Pexels

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Why It's Still Great To Be a Georgia Bulldog

Last Monday was rough.

Yeah. So that happened.

It felt like the entire season was a dream. An incredible takeover in South Bend and a win over Notre Dame. Shutting out Tennessee. A loss to Auburn, and then a revenge win and an SEC Championship title. A stress-inducing win in double overtime at the Rose Bowl against Oklahoma.

A national championship game against Alabama. A nail-biting overtime. And then...

It's over. Just like that.

It can be hard with football to grasp the suddenness of the moment, the finality of a game-winning touchdown or a crucial missed call. There's no going back; the final score is the final score, the winner is the winner, and the losing team is left to pick up the pieces. For the fans of the team that comes up short, more specifically Georgia fans, a loss like the one we all experienced Monday night can feel like someone has ripped our hearts out. Because that's our team down on that field, on that screen, and when they hurt, we hurt, too. With a loss like this, it's easy to lose hope in not just our football team, but our university.

However, even though I and the rest of Bulldog Nation was seriously hurting during that game, I came to realize a few things about my school.

We are so positive all the time and it truly inspires me. Yes, it felt like the energy was sucked out of Athens the moment the game ended, but the day after, we still welcomed our team home with crowds of hundreds of fans and posters saying, "Still Proud!" At this institution, even if you come up short, even if you fail, it's okay. It's a part of the process: a building block, if you will. Find another solution. Find another way.

It feels like a family in Athens, Georgia. Even cheering for our dawgs in the National Championship felt like I was cheering for my local high school football team: there's a small town feel to this school and you can definitely sense it. So when we lost, we felt the loss collectively.

Finally, I realized that I never want to be at any other school other than the University of Georgia. Say what you will about our loss being in "typical Georgia" fashion, but there is a special air about this place that screams anything but "losers". It screams success and drive. It screams passion. Most importantly, it screams love.

So yeah, Monday sucked. But it is an incredible time to be a Georgia Bulldog.

Cover Image Credit: StadiumDB

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