A couple of years ago we were visiting Walt Disney World in Florida at the same time the Cheerleading and Dance Worlds were happening at ESPN Sports. My girls were mesmerized. Thousands of girls were walking around with glitter on their eyes, adorable outfits and big bows in their hair. They were cute, smiling, enthusiastic and athletic. For my two little girls they were everything they wanted to be. They immediately asked if they could join cheerleading when we got home.
Eeek. I wasn’t so sure. I knew cheerleading was huge in the United States, but had never heard of it in Canada. Also, I had a lot of preconceived notions in my head, primarily things I’d picked up from high school and from movies like Bring it On. For me, it was everything I didn’t want my daughters to be. I was hesitant, to say the least.
I researched cheer gyms in our area and finally settled in on one. From the moment the girls joined it was love…..for me and them. Far from the “rah-rah-sis-boom-bah” stereotype I had painted for myself, it is actually helping me reinforce and teach lessons that line up with my own value system.
So without further ado, Ten Life Lessons from Cheerleading.
The team comes first. Each girl is encouraged to reach their full potential, but unless every single girl hits their mark when they’re supposed to the team will suffer when being scored. That means that no girl gets left behind. Each and every member is equally important to its success. It is in everyone’s best interest to see their peers do well.
Dedication. When my girls don’t feel like being there, they know the rest of the team will suffer because of it. If you sign up, you show up.
Practice makes perfect. Practice, practice, practice is a cheerleaders motto. Going over the moves again and again, ensures safety and perfection.
Be a positive role model. Perhaps my favourite thing about my girls cheer club is how the older girls cheer the younger girls on. The youngest team always shines brightest when the senior girls are cheering them on at competition or at the gym. They are, after all, the ones they look up too.
Learn to trust. When you’re a flyer you need to know that those girls at the base are not going to let you fall. Ever. To build trust, you need to build bonds. It’s a two way street.
Smile, even if you don’t feel like it. My girls have gone into practice grumpy and left on top of the world.
Compete with class. I’ve watched girls from one team run to hug girls from other teams at competition. I’ve seen them enthusiastically and sincerely cheer their competitors on. I’ve never seen them pull out the movie version of a cheerleader. See next point.
Girls are not your enemy. If there is one thing my girls gym does really well, is it fosters an environment where girls are supportive of each other. They build each other up, not tear down.
Fit is your goal, not skinny. Cheerleading demands strong cardiovascular stamina, strength, co-ordination, and flexibility. Cheerleaders come in every single shape and size, except unhealthy.
Give it your all. You can’t go out and cheer a little, you can’t give half a smile, or sort of catch a flyer. You must be present for every moment you’re there. The same could be said for life.
*originally published at Barbie I Can Be in August 2012