What made you the person you are today? A question you probably don't get asked much, but when you do, what do you answer? I love to answer with cheer.
I do get looks, like the look, " Cheer made you the hard worker you are" look. Trust me, that look is real. When I started in the world of competitive cheerleading, it didn't have its reputation. It wasn't as known. We, athletes, (yes, I said ATHLETES), worked just as hard as the football player, soccer player, etc. I spent hours in the cheer gym. I had practice three times a week, plus a tumbling class, the occasional open gym, and competitions on the weekend. So if we add up just the practices, that's 10-plus hours a week, and then if it were a competition week, it would be more like 26 hours, two eight-plus hour days at the competition, and that's just for the athletes, not the coaches. The world of competitive cheerleading has such a reputation that people don't think twice to wrestle at the thought of being a cheerleader. They now understand what it takes to be a competitive cheerleader and how hard it is. And for that, I am thankful. To know that all of our hard work now doesn't go unnoticed is a massive win for the cheer world. These are just some things I have learned from being a cheerleader.
TeamworkTo be on a competitive cheer team, you have to learn teamwork. It is such a skill to learn. As a team, you will have good days and bad days, but you learn to accomplish so much together. You learn everyone's niche and always allow those teammates to shine in their way. You realize that working together is better than working apart. Teamwork will enable you to learn that everyone has a different standard for what they want to achieve, but together those standards can be achieved almost immediately.
You don't know what fearless is until you rely on someone to make sure they hit their tumbling pass. To hit the pyramid. To perform the dance flawlessly. You don't know fearless until you throw your body backward, forwards, twists in the middle of the air but still manage to land on your feet. Being brave in the cheer world also means to go out and perform even though you know your team has all odds stacked against them. Being fearless in the cheer world taught me not to accept anything but my personal best.
To be fearless
Cheerleading taught me how to manage my time wisely. Even though I have been sucking at this lately, I did learn how. I would practice as stated for hours every week. I learned to do my homework in the car, in between practices, at competitions. I learned how to do something in two minutes and thirty seconds. Time management is essential to employers, and most of the time, our very own wellbeing and cheer has taught me that managing time is a useful life hack.
If cheer truly taught me anything, it is most definitely how to handle criticism. You learn that your best is not your best at first. You understand you always have to work harder. You realize that even the little things matter. I learned there was still something I could be fixing and making better. When someone points out something I did wrong, it wasn't to tear me down or make me feel like less of a person but to educate me that I can improve and do better. Criticism does not always need to be negative; criticism is to help people grow as humans.
Being able to take criticism
When you become a competitive cheerleader and or any cheerleader or athlete, you learn commitment. This is not a one and done sport. You pour about eight months of your life into one season for a measly two minutes and thirty seconds. You learn that you give up some fun plans to be at practice instead. You understand that missing school dances or hanging with your friends is not as important as you think. Being committed to cheer for 14 years of my life taught me how to navigate what's important to miss and what's not. Cheer is something you have to put time and effort into, and you can't leave when you want because others depend on you.
In the competitive cheer world, you have two minutes and thirty seconds to hit a routine flawlessly. All those hours at practice count for your performance for two minutes and thirty seconds. So I mean, do I need to explain much more about dealing with hitting a flawless routine with tumbling, jumps, a stunt sequence, pyramids, and a dance. I will, though, because my cheer career taught me how not to buckle, how to be confident in yourself, how to, no matter what, put a smile on your face and perform what you know best. Cheer taught me to tough and not take the easy way out, always work hard, and still know how to have fun.
Dealing with high-pressure situations
One goal that I would have to say many cheerleaders have in the competitive cheer world is to go to Worlds and The Summit. The same goes for school cheerleaders who look forward to going down to Florida every year for nationals. Other cheerleaders' goals can be to get a new tumbling skill, a new stunt to put in, a new section of the pyramid. The list can go on and on. Having goals when I cheered allowed me to work hard and keep going until I accomplished them. I hit almost all my dreams, but unfortunately, I went to college and left the cheer world. Allowing myself to have goals when I cheered shaped me into who I am because I know I can achieve something, and I can become the person I want to be.
This can be difficult for anybody. Getting back up after you fall is not easy. The word fall can be interchangeable. To me and the cheer world, fall can quite literally mean fall. The word can also mean not winning as a team. It can indicate when a stunt falls, and the group blames themselves. Learning how to fix those problems is important. Learning how to take a loss as a team, go to that next practice and push themselves ten times harder is what getting back up means. Fixing your stunt, so it hits at all times is what getting back up means. Throwing tumbling pass after tumbling pass to show yourself that fall was just a mistake is what getting back up is. Cheer has taught me that no matter how hard or how far I fall, I will always be able to get back up, and it all starts with believing in yourself.
How to get back up after falling
Cheer taught me how to stand my ground by being able to, for one, state my case for why cheerleading is a sport. Cheer also taught me how to stand my ground by; when a coach asks if you can do something, you don't back down because who wouldn't want to prove your coach wrong. It taught me to stand my ground by never giving up on myself and always work hard.
Standing your ground
Cheer taught me a lot, and I will forever be grateful for the countless hours my parents put into driving me to and from practice, to all the money they spent on my gym fees, comp fees, practice wear, uniforms, etc. Cheer is full of life lessons, and I will forever be grateful for the coaches, teammates, and memories I made.