Finally, it's that time of year that each and every college cheerleader waits so patiently and works so hard for: Daytona Nationals. At the end of our last practice before our friends and family showcase after hitting our last full-out routine of the night, our coaches had us sit in a circle and tell the team why we were so proud to be a lady gull. At first this seemed to be just a simple question we had to answer before rolling up the mats for the night, but once everybody began responding to the question, I realized how much more this little exercise really meant.
Cheerleading is a sport like no other. Sure, it combines components of dance, gymnastics, and acrobatics, but nothing can compare to the experience you gets from growing up being a cheerleader, living out your childhood at practices, football games, and huge competitions. The amount of physical talent that cheerleading demands through stunting, tumbling, and jumping is like nothing else in this world. Learning to rely on each and every teammate to carry out their role in a routine is absolutely crucial in the cheer world. Nothing will ever feel the same as that moment when you step off the competition mat with your team, knowing that you hit a flawless routine.
For most cheerleaders, their career ends senior year of high school. By that point, many girls have other plans for their college and future, and are tired out from toll that years and years of this sport has taken on themselves and their bodies. However, there are a few girls who compete at their last competition senior year, and as they cry and hug the rest of the seniors on their team, they know that this moment will not be their last.
Being a college cheerleader is not easy. Juggling college level course work along with practices and games every week is extremely difficult. Adjusting to college-level stunting and routines may be one of the greatest challenges in a college cheerleader's career. However, the unbreakable bonds built with your teammates throughout the year and the undying support and motivation you each have for one another on and off the mat truly makes those late-night practices and hours of conditioning really worth it.
I'm proud to be a lady gull because of my teammates. They come to practice each day with a smile on their faces, putting last practice's fails behind us and ready to face whatever challenges may be thrown our way. In and out of practice, we support and motivate one another to do our best in both cheer and college life itself. Not only are we teammates, but we are roommates, best friends, life coaches, and most importantly, sisters. When people told me that joining a sports team would grant me an automatic group of friends, I never expected this to be so true. Not only do we cheer together, but we live together, study together, go out together, party together, and even hangout during school breaks together. Though I have only known this group of girls for a short while, they have become absolutely everything to me, and I could not imagine my life without them.
I'm proud to be a lady gull because of my coaches. Though one of the greatest challenges this season for all of us was recreating the entire Endicott cheer program with completely new coaches, it was truly a blessing in disguise. Rachel and Steph put their hearts and souls into this team, always pushing us to become better athletes and better people. They revamped this entire team and prepared us as much as possible for Daytona with what little time we had this year. Not only have they done an incredible job of building this team into something truly remarkable, but they have helped us grow as young adults by being there for us in and out of practice, every step of the way. Their hard work, dedication, and passion for this team shines through in every aspect of the way we carry ourselves as lady gulls.
Finally, I'm proud to be a lady gull because of the passion and drive each member of this team has for this incredible sport. We are slowly changing our reputation in this school by proving to everyone that we, too, are athletes, just as much as members of the football or basketball teams.The way that we stand up for and motivate one another is like nothing I've ever seen in a team in my whole ten years of cheerleading. Each teammate is willing to push a little harder, go a little longer, jump a little higher, and yell a little louder for the girl standing next to them, and this is something so truly unique and special about this group of twenty girls.
The final step of our journey is right around the corner, just within our reach. Lady gulls, as our plane lands in Florida and as we step out onto the practice and competition mats in Daytona, I encourage you to remember why you're proud to be a lady gull. Think about how proud your younger self would be to watch yourself on the bandshell. Think about how proud your parents, friends, family, coaches and teammates are of you for continuing this far into your cheerleading career. Think about how much you've put into this team and routine all year, and leave absolutely everything on the mat. Only then will you realize that the work is really worth it.