“Okay, you can do this, stay tight. Smile! Squeeze legs, lock out arms, and.. hit! YES! Crap, I’m supposed to be saying words too. Oh ouch, I can’t hold this stunt much longer. Must.not.show.pain. Smile! Ugh, so many blank stares. How many times have we repeated these words now? Six? Seven times? PAY ATTENTION TO ME I’M DOING A DANGEROUS STUNT. I’m seriously about to fall! Have I been grimacing in pain? For Pete’s sake, SMILE!”
These are just a few of the thoughts running through my brain during a single stunt while cheering at a Bluffton University football game. Most people don’t realize how much goes into cheerleading. First of all, the attitude. We’re not allowed to be upset or show anything but complete joy. No one wants to go to a game and see a cheerleader sulking. Even when the boys are losing and visibly showing frustration, we have to remain peppy and positive. When fans are yelling about a referee’s terrible call, we cannot join in but must instead look like we’re having the time of our lives while our cheers are drowned out by booing. Putting on a face, even if you’re having the worst day ever, is extremely hard sometimes, but completely essential.
Secondly, the lack of recognition and blasé attitude toward cheerleading is difficult to ignore. I’ve heard the question, “So..how do you even practice cheerleading?” asked way too many times. We have two hours of practice a day. We have 6 a.m. workouts like any other fall athlete. We condition when we mess up. We lift- both weights, and humans. We have 70+ chants to learn, and over 15 long cheers and dances. Our torsos, legs, arms, hands, feet, and faces must be in perfect synchrony with nine other women. We have to be extremely flexible and strong to resist gravity and hold stunts in the air – Not to mention, we’re supposed to look good doing it all. No grunting or wiping sweat or letting anyone see you’re out of breath. Smiling, Barbie hands, and pretty posturing.
So, why do we do it? Simple. We love it. Like any other athlete, our squad-mates are our family. We’re with them every day. They (literally) catch us when we fall. We pour hours and hours into promoting our school in any way possible.
It’s all worth it to get a few people to cheer along with us, to encourage the football team rather than yell against our opponent. It’s rewarding to see the players celebrate each others’ good plays and hear the motivating pep talks on the sidelines. And, in the end, it’s something that I’ve wanted to do since I was a little girl. I do it for her, and all the little girls with the same ambitions. I hope she would be proud.