We Don’t Talk About It- The Lessons Learned From Competitive Cheerleading

Being part of this sport and community is one of the greatest blessings I have received in my eighteen years of being alive. It has opened the doors to many friendships, adventures, and experiences that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. And just like any remarkable journey, it came with lessons and triumphs. Even though I had a late start in the sport (August 2012), I cherish everything I have learned since discovering this world bound by the blue spring floors, so here’s a recap.

1. Adults (this includes both coaches and parents) are going to hate on kids and teenagers for either their skill set, their work ethic, or anything else that they can latch onto.

This one was a rough one to learn. Even though I have personally experienced seen this happen in the world of gymnastics, I did not feel the magnitude of it until I started cheerleading. While it shocked me to listen to parents and coaches belittle their own athletes behind their backs, it gave me a reason to push myself harder. In my mind, if I worked hard enough, I could shut all the haters up. When I realized that wouldn’t work (because jealousy is a strong force), I turned to the people I could trust (friends from different teams, my parents, etc.) for reassurance and guidance. With their help I was able to separate the comments driven by jealousy from the comments that had some validity to them.

2. The team comes first.

Because I came from a sport that focused on the individual and not the team, this came as somewhat of a shock to me. I didn’t like the idea of dumbing down the routine if someone wasn’t hitting their skill or stunt (I have been that someone a few times…so this is in no way me pointing fingers). I didn’t like the idea of missing my best friend’s birthday for three consecutive years. However, being part of a team meant making these sacrifices. It meant adjusting to other people’s schedules and emergencies. It meant giving something up for the greater good.

Which brings me to the people that don’t make the team one of their priorities: You aggravate me. Not only are you wasting my time (that I value very much and have very little of), but you are also wasting the time of your coaches and fellow teammates. No one is “too good” to come to practice. Ironically enough, the people missing practice are also usually not the best ones on the team, so they really should be making an effort to be there.

3. Nothing unites a team like adversity.

In my five years of cheerleading, I have been part of more than one program/team. While each team was a completely different experience from the previous, the idea of succeeding despite adversities remained a constant.

Even though I have plenty of my own stories about prevailing despite adversity, this video speaks words louder than those that I can write.

4. “Fake it till you make it”

My sophomore year a guest choreographer from World Cup told me this after giving me the center spot in the routine. I thought it was a cute phrase, but it didn’t fully resonate with me until I started trying to apply it. At first, it made me really uncomfortable, but in a few months I saw major improvements in my flying and tumbling. Believing in myself and owning the skills that I had helped me perform better at practice and competitions.

To be continued…

This isn’t a goodbye, it’s a see you later.