24 January, 2017
To be a Cheerleader you need a Cheerleader
Growing up I had always wanted to be a cheerleader, it was just a matter of getting into it and learning what it takes. I watched my older sister cheer for years until I was finally old enough to join a team. I couldn’t just learn by watching her but it was definitely an advantage, I needed guidance and a coach to teach me what it took to be a cheerleader. Without the help of my mother and my first coach, Coach Mike, I would not have grown to excel in the activity as much as I did.
In 2004 my mom decided to put me in cheer, for the city of Covina. At that time, I was only seven years old with no skill in cheerleading what so ever. All I knew was I loved watching it and pretending to be one. My mom never forced me or any of my siblings to play a sport that we didn’t enjoy, and she knew I would enjoy cheer the minute I started. I was a happy energetic kid and those two things are the foundation of becoming a cheerleader.
My first team that I joined was the youngest age group in the league, we were called “Gremlins” then it went up to Jr. peewee, peewee, Jr. mascot then mascot. I remember picking out our bows for our season, we were like kids at a candy store, couldn’t just pick one we had to have them all. Coach Mike was my first mentor in cheerleading. He cared so much to train me to be an outstanding cheerleader, and to teach me everything that I needed to know to not just cheer but to love to cheer.
Being so young and going into cheerleading, it was hard to make new friends but later on I realized some of the strongest relationships came from my cheerleading teammates. My mom always told me I could be anything I wanted, whether it was the president or a cheerleader, as long as I devoted myself to whatever I wanted to become and was passionate about it. Seeing other girls my age with more experience and higher skills than me made me feel extremely intimidated, I was like a freshman at my first high school dance, wasn’t sure what to do exactly, just went with the flow of things.
There is actually more expected of a cheerleader other than shouting and cheering on a sports team, believe it or not. There’s jumping, tumbling, and stunting involved. Starting out I could only do a cart-wheel and that was it for tumbling. My mom wanted to put me in a tumbling class but we didn’t have the money for it. My Coach Mike agreed to not only be my cheer coach but also my tumbling coach. I would stay later at practice with a few other teammates and have tumbling classes. My tumbling was never my strongest area but I was able to progress quite a bit at a young age. I had my round off back handspring and my standing back handspring, those skills were good for a young kid.
In cheerleading jumping consisted of toe touches, pike jumps, and so on, both these jumps don’t require much skill. For example, a toe touch is simply kicking up your left and right leg, to the left and right at the same time and reaching for the tops of your feet. A pike jump is kicking your left and right leg out in front of you at the same time and reaching your arms towards your feet. In order to perfect my jumps, I needed to be taught properly. It doesn’t take much to improve jumps, or even to be a great cheerleader, it takes rigorous, work and dedication. I was always taught in cheerleading that I had to be committed and willing to push my body beyond limits.
Learning something new, whether it’s a sport, cooking, driving etc. requires the willingness to learn and be open minded towards what you are being taught. With my coach Mike and my mom, they always kept me motivated and pushed me to do my best even when I thought I couldn’t. When it came to competitions, I was always terrified but knowing my mom was there made it a little easier. Our coach would always give us the most encouraging prep talks before we went on the floor.
The most important quality needed to be a cheerleader, I was told, is being able to memorize and perfect the criteria that we were taught. Also, being energetic and having spirit at games, and competitions. Part of being energetic was being loud during cheers. My coach would always shout before we started a cheer, “loud and proud ladies, the stands need to hear you!” Facial expressions during performances were important when I was younger. We would have a separate time during practice where we practiced smiling, and bobbling our heads during a routine. In competition we were docked points if we didn’t smile and use facial expressions during a performance.
Cheerleading was something I had always dreamed of doing. Learning to become a cheerleader was an amazing experience; to be honest I didn’t stop learning until the day I decided not to continue cheerleading after high school. Learning something new, all depends on your willingness to grow and open up to trying new things and most of the time it requires you to step out of your comfort zone and into something completely new, that is the beauty of learning. For the most part, trying and learning something new allows us to grow, not just in whatever we are being taught but also as a person.