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Cheerleading Shaped My Life

It really is more than just a sport.

Cheerleading Shaped My Life
Larissa Beriswill

When I was in elementary school, I started cheering for the local youth football team. I always told other girls "yeah I'm a cheerleader," thinking it was the coolest thing ever. Cheerleading back then was simply fun. You did not really need to know the proper technique or tumbling skills. It was the most fun when your best friends were on your team.

You did not all need to match hairstyles, white socks, and no nail polish. It really was all just fun to cheer on the boys that were in your grade. The most fun was going to the high school football games on Friday nights with your friends, the girls in their cheer uniform and the boys in their football jerseys. How times have changed.

When I was in fourth grade, that's when I started to cheer at the competitive level. I only did it for one year until my senior year of high school. I learned basic tumbling during that time that carried over in my middle and high school years. When I was in sixth grade, I tried out for the seventh-grade cheer team and I thought the world would be over if I didn't make it. I made it for both football and basketball season. I tried out the next year and made it again.

In eighth grade, my one friend and I took turns calling cheers every game and would do standing back handsprings in our hello cheer. I would've called us the captains, but it wasn't really that important to us back then. It honestly was just us doing what we loved. High school came around and I was more than nervous to try out for the team. I knew that summer practices for middle schoolers were hard, what would they be like in high school? I made the team and went through a long summer of practice. I was scared of all of the seniors that year as they all tumbled and had high jumps.

We went to tumbling as a team every Monday and it was the best part about being in cheer. Tumbling is so much fun and a great work out as you're using all parts of your body. My sophomore year came, and it was my first year as a varsity cheerleader, so the expectations were much higher. My jumps had to be higher and my tumbling had to be better and cleaner than it was before. I was then on JV for basketball to make the teams even but that didn't stop me from wanting to progress. We started tumbling at a new gym during my junior year, which I was unsure of. I can never thank my coach, Kara, enough for that change. I learned more in my one year there than I did in the other 2 years at the other gym.

I was quickly learning new skills and strengthening myself. I was on varsity all of my junior and senior years. My senior year as a cheerleader was easily the best year in all the six that I was a cheerleader. As a senior, you are the captain. There were four seniors, so we all were considered captains, and our coach would argue that we were leaders. Not only during a game but in practice and just in general, we were always making sure that the younger girls knew how to behave and act. When you are part of a team, you are always representing that team wherever you go.

As well as a successful senior year of cheerleading at school, the coaches of the gym, Mark and Kara, urged me to try out for their all-star team in May before my senior year started. I was even more unsure of that because I only would be able to be on that team for one year and I did not know anyone. I went out on a limb and thought things wouldn't be so bad if I cheered all-star, so I tried out. To my surprise, I made their level three senior team and I could not have been happier. I quickly became a leader on that team because I was a senior and had a great outlook on cheerleading. Each practice was a chance to be better than the last and that's what I tried to instill in the young girls on my team.

The season quickly came to an end and I cried every single day leading up to my graduation, which marked the end of the cheer season. My coaches and all of my teammates wrote letters to me that I still have to this day. I occasionally read them when I'm in my feels. They all basically said how happy they were that they got to spend one year with me and how my leadership helped us reach our goal at the end of the season, going to The Summit.

Without cheer, I would not be as strong as I am today. It put me in the best shape of my life. It showed me time management with being on an all-star team forty-five minutes away from home and being a leader on my school cheer team. I made relationships with my coaches and teammates that I still have to this day. I will cherish my time as a cheerleader for the rest of my life. And if anyone wants to argue, cheerleading IS a sport. Don't "@" me. Sit in on a practice and a competition then tell me it's not a sport.

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