I've spoken to so many people that have said to me that cheerleading isn't a sport. Why, because it doesn't involve a ball? In fact, it should be considered even more of a sport because it involves tossing HUMANS into the air instead of a ball. I cheered practically my whole life. It wasn't easy, and I guarantee I poured just as much blood, sweat and tears into it as any other football, baseball or whatever player. Actually- I competed until I was 17, went to two national championships and placed in the top three for ALL but one, but even then we were still in the top 10. It was never easy for one second. It was time-consuming, stressful, and painful at times (lots of times)- but it was the most fun I've ever had in my whole entire life. Along with having fun, making memories and lifelong friends, this beautiful sport also taught me so many things that have impacted who I am today.

1. I learned to be confident.

Being a cheerleader, the whole school saw me perform every time I put on that uniform. But even when I didn't have the uniform on, I had people looking at me all the time. I used to be so self conscious, but as I got older and more into the sport I learned to be happy with who I am and to never let other people create my image for me.

2. I learned to be a fighter.

As I mentioned earlier, I've had so many people laugh and tell me that they think cheer is stupid or that it's not a sport. Really, do you have multiple trophies, medals and two TOP THREE national titles? Yeah, I didn't think so. So shut it.

3. I now have a high pain tolerance.

I was a flyer, a base... you name it, I did it. Whether I was being tossed in the air or I was the one doing the tossing, it wasn't always easy-breezy. It hurts. Bones hit bones, we land awkwardly and we sometimes hit each other. I would come home with bruises all over my body, sprains, strains and even a broken nose (see photo below for proof). I know, ugly right?

4. I now realize that you always have to appreciate the things you love before they're gone.

I had a love-hate relationship with the sport. Mostly love of course, but sometimes I think I just went through the motions. Going to practice, going to games and going home. I guess I kind of neglected it sometimes. I had done it for so long that I didn't always want to do it. Looking back, I wish I would've just absorbed every single moment of it- the good, the bad and the ugly (like my face when I broke my nose). I miss it all the time and I never thought I would!

So you see, cheerleaders aren't just some cute girls that run around in little skirts. Most of the time they have practice 5 days a week, along with homework or jobs or other extracurricular activities. We are out on the field just as long as football players, and we only had a couple of months between seasons. Not only was it a sport to me, I cheered for so long that it helped shaped me into the girl I am today, and I wouldn't trade that for anything in the world.