Competitive Cheerleading

Giovanna Milano

English 1110.01

Andrew Kinney

27 March 2017

Competitive Cheerleading

There’s such a variety of subcultures within our society, that most people do not know of, or belong to. Subcultures are cultures within a larger culture that not everyone has access to or membership in, and that help provide participants with a sense of meaning or identity that is distinct from our larger, shared culture. Trying to understand all the subcultures within our society, is highly impossible. The amount of people that share the same interests that allow them to be involved in a subculture together, is endless.

The subculture that I chose to write on, is competitive cheerleading. I have been a competitive cheerleader for 11 years and most people would not have a clue what I was talking about if I ever talked cheer terms in front of them. This has had a huge impact on my life, and I have met so many amazing, lifelong friends, and have learned many life lessons through other athletes and my coaches. This subculture has changed and adapted over time because when cheerleading first began, there was not as many skills and terms created that were never even thought of, and as the years progressed, the skills and terms have evolved. Along with that, many skills have gone up in difficulty and performance has increased immensely.

There are so many other aspects that come with this subculture that don’t just have to do with skills and difficulty, but your appearance and representation as well. The different type of hair styles we must create on ourselves is endless. If I were to tell an outsider that I must wear a high, slicked back pony, with curls and a lot of tease, they most likely would not know exactly what that may look like. Uniforms, makeup, and clothing is also something that plays a huge role in cheerleading, and is very important in how you represent yourself, and your gym.

Outsiders tend to perceive this subculture as a “weak” or “feminine” sport, but most don’t know that majority of cheerleading nowadays, has men involved. With that being said, a lot of people do not even see competitive cheerleading as a “sport” in our society, and do not think it is truly as hard as it is. There are many levels and terms that define the skills we are performing, and as the levels go up, the difficulty gets harder and harder. In competitive cheerleading, there are five levels. One being the lowest, and five being the highest.

Members of this must make their way up the totem pole and gain skills in each level to move onto the next. As you make your way up the levels, you increase your difficulty, as well as knowledge on all the skills that you are performing and learning to perfect. Everyone must start at level one as a beginner, and as they increase their skills, they can move onto the next at whatever pace they are gaining these skills at.

Some of my experiences as a member in this subculture, is that when I first started out, everything seemed very foreign to me, and was very hard. Throughout the 11 years that I belonged to this group, I gained so much knowledge and learned amazing skills, along with their names. As you learn the skills, you also are taught how to explain what you must do in order to develop the skill and body shapes. There are an endless amount of terms and combinations that you can create when it comes to cheerleading. The different areas that you perform in a routine are jumps, standing tumbling, running tumbling, and choreography. These are put together in a two minute and thirty second routine, to show judges and the crowd the hardest and most difficult skills you and your team can put on the mat. The different positions and roles that there are to make up a full team is amazing. To form a stunt group, you must have a back spot, side base, main base, and a flyer. Within this stunt group, you must have individual skills such as flexibility, strength, dance skills, level appropriate tumbling, and an amazing attitude.

If I were to be talking about cheerleading in front of my friends, they would never know what I was talking about, and would always say, “whatever that means.” Not being involved in this subculture, you most definitely will not know what I am saying unless you come from a similar background. Most of my cheerleading career, I was level 5 athlete, the highest level offered, and it took a lot of hard work and dedication to get there. All the sacrifices I have had to make when it came to cheerleading, is almost absurd. I have only been to one high school dance, due to our practices and competitions demanding so much of our time. Most practices as a level five athlete would add up to a total of 20 hours a week. Many subcultures that have to do with sports, most likely can relate to all the events and things we’ve had to give up being a member of this group.

It’s amazing to me that the different “languages” that we all speak within our groups, are so diverse and it’s hard for us to all relate to and understand each other’s. Being a flyer as my position in cheerleading, I was forced to learn all the body positions and flexibility such as arabesques, stretches, bow and arrows, and scorpions. It was very difficult at first but once I increased my flexibility and learned my body lines, flying became so fun and easy to perform in the air when I was at competitions. Without this subculture, I would not have had this many life experiences and made as many friends that I have. Everyone should at least watch a competitive cheerleading routine sometime in their life in order to understand the difficulty of our sport.

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