Making Changes for a Whole New Season

The lazy days of summer are long gone, and those sweaty, long, and carefree cheer practices gone with them. There’s no more time for experimenting, or trying out stunts for the hell of it. That’s right – competition season is here, and as every dedicated cheerleader knows, it’s time to bring it.

A new season means changes – maybe a new coach, a few new teammates, and most importantly, a whole new routine. It can often be difficult to get used to change. Maybe you were front and center at last year’s dance section, but in this routine you’re way in the back. Or maybe you were at the top of the pyramid, but are now just a mid-base.  Being a good cheerleader means accepting change and continuing to work your butt off as if you were the star. So you’ve got a crappy little part at the back where no one will see you during the dance? OWN IT as if you were the only one up there. So you lost your spot in that tumbling line? OWN every other walkover, handspring, tuck, or full you have in the routine, and continue to practice the line on your own as if your life depended on it.

It can be very frustrating knowing that you’re able to do a lot more than what you’ve been assigned, but being a good sport and a good teammate means knowing when to suck it up and do your part. Choreography decisions are made by your coaches with the best interest of the team in mind, and sometimes that means that you don’t always get everything you want. Cheerleading IS a TEAM sport after all. There are reasons why your coaches have made the routine the way it is, and you need to respect that. If you mope around and keep complaining  and putting in minimal effort, your coaches won’t change their mind and put you up front, but the opposite – they’ll see you’re not being a good sport or trying your best, and won’t give you that stunt back. If you have good reason to be upset, and really feel like you’re able to contribute more to the routine, then consider having a chat with your coach about it. Don’t be rude or demanding, but be honest about how you feel, and be prepared to work your hardest to prove to your coaches why you want a certain part over whoever has it at the moment. I admit sometimes staying positive in such a situation can be very hard to do, as not having a routine you love can be rather demotivating. But this is what separates good cheerleaders from bad ones – good cheerleaders not only motivate others, but motivate themselves, during good times and especially during bad. It helps to remember you’re on a team, and you should be proud of having the privilege to be on that team. If you don’t have pride for your team, then you should consider changing teams because you won’t be able to reach your full potential on a team you’re not happy to be on.

So keep smiling, keep shining, and keep cheering no matter what!

Cheer on!

-Mina

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Cinq, six, sept, huit…Q-U-E-B-E-C Cheers!

Hey friends!

Sorry I’ve been a little MIA – I spent the last 5 weeks in Quebec City. While my main purpose there was to study French, I eagerly took the opportunity to scope out the cheerleading scene. As luck would have it, I met a cheerleader from Laval University, where I was taking courses. We met up with a few other cheerleaders in our program – one as far away as Regina – and we worked on a few stunts, did some double bases in the sun and shared cheer experiences (in French of course!) For me, the most interesting part was learning all the cheer terms in French – most of them are the same (base, back), but a few differences exist. It was funny stunting while counting in French. A flyer in French is “Voltige”, while a back handspring is “Flac” (derived from ‘Flic-Flac’, which kind of sounds like what it is). Fulls are just “twists” and double base is the same.

I learned that Quebec City has two main all-star cheer gyms – Le Lys de Quebec and Les Cobras de Quebec. I’ve been fortunate enough to see them both at competition, and along with the FLYERS from Montreal, I’ve come to the conclusion that Quebec has some amazing cheerleading programs. It was cool to meet cheerleaders from other parts of the country, but missing 5 weeks of my own team was pretty tough, so I’m back at CCA happily practicing for the season to come!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep up the cheer!

-Mina


Tryout Troubles

Well, it’s that time of year again. Tryouts. And aside from the physical nerves, trying to remember a new dance, and sticking your tumbling passes in front of the harshest judges you will face (your future coaches), tryouts can also come with the added stress of choices, decisions, and questions that need your answers. Depending on your age and ability, your might have to make some very important decisions regarding your cheer life, and it’s important to take your time when deciding.

If you’ve only ever cheered on All-star team,  should you try out for your school team for a new experience? If you make it, should you quit all-star? Or can you handle both? Be very honest with yourself and how much you can take on your plate, making sure to prioritize what you need to focus most on in the upcoming year. This goes for both high school and college teams. In general, school teams usually require more time commitment and practice more often than all-star teams. Keep in mind that school teams will also expect you to be present to cheer at football, basketball, and other games taking place at the school. All-star teams on the other hand can be a lot more of a financial strain than school, since you have to pay tuition every month.

Maybe you started cheering on a school team, and now are wondering if you should transition to all-star. And, here comes the million dollar question – if yes, WHICH all-star team should you try out for? It’s a good idea to try out for as many teams as you can, because it’s good to experience how different gyms run their programs. Plus, you never know where you will make it. Don’t underestimate yourself and miss a tryout because you don’t think you’re good enough for a certain team. That’s not your decision to make. So if there’s a team that you’ve had your eye on, don’t wait around until “next year when I’m better”, because you will always have something you can improve on. However, do keep in mind that by trying out you are giving a certain piece of commitment to the gym. If you make it to every gym you try out for, which gym would you choose? You need to know this before you try out, and have the other gyms as your back-ups if you don’t make the one you want.

If you’re on an all-star team, under 18 and not in the College or Open divisions, you might be given a choice of a few different teams you can be on in your gym  – you might be eligible for either a Junior or a Senior team, sometimes competing at different levels. You’ll have to decide if you want to compete at a higher level, or if you’re happy with your current one. Keep in mind that if you’re a top and you’re the smallest/youngest one on a senior team, it’s probably better to stay on Junior, because you’ll learn to be a better flyer when you can hold your own weight being held by girls your own size and not simply being muscled around by bases that are twice your size. You might decide to be a crossover athlete – being on more than one team at your gym. Make sure you can handle the pressures of training so much, and learning more than one routine at the same time while keeping up with your school work and other commitments.

Then there’s the whole issue of coed vs. all-girl, and that’s a different game altogether. Perhaps you’ve never been on coed but would like to try it, or the other way around. It can be hard making the switch the older you are, especially on all-star teams. One way to get more coed experience is to join a good coed university/college team. (Unfortunately this also comes with the little problem of having to actually be enrolled in the school.)

Maybe you’ve been on an all-star team for years, and you’ve had the same coach throughout. While you’ve had a blast, maybe you feel like you’ve stopped improving, or maybe you’ve just gotten bored of the same coaching style. Don’t be afraid to explore other cheer options just because you’re ‘loyal’ to your gym and may be afraid of unspoken repercussions by your gym, your teammates and your coaches. You shouldn’t be bullied into staying on a team, and even if it’s not an in-your-face verbal abuse, unspoken judgment  that affects your relationship with your teammates, coaches, and gym can still be considered bullying. Switching to another gym shouldn’t be like breaking up with a boyfriend/girlfriend, and you shouldn’t have to lose friends in the process. Every good coach should understand that it’s good for athletes to experience a few different gyms and coaches throughout their cheer careers, to figure out what fits them best and what pushes them to be the best athlete they can be. A lot of the time there isn’t one coach that is the best coach for every single one of their athletes, because athletes are human, and have very different needs in terms of coaching. Gyms should be happy for their athletes wherever they are, as long as they’re improving and becoming the best cheerleaders they can be.

Perhaps you have a tough year ahead – maybe your last year of university, or you’re going away to study elsewhere for a semester, or you’ve got a new very demanding job. You might have to consider – GASP – dropping cheerleading altogether for a year or two. While it may seem impossible to do, you must think what will be best for you in the long run. Yes, you may lose some skills, but you don’t have to! All gyms have an ‘Open gym’ night every week where you can keep up with your tumbling and stunting, without the pressures of a routine or competition.

Then there’s the possibility of transitioning from being an athlete to coaching. It’s a whole new way of looking at cheerleading, that can be very rewarding, but also very stressful and time-consuming. You can start by volunteering with a team or being an assistant coach. You’ll have to also get your USASF certifications, as well as maybe a few other qualifications, depending on the gym’s requirements, but some gyms offer to pay the fees for you if you’ll coach for them. Another good way to try out coaching is to go back to your high school team (if you were on it) and talk to their coach about helping out.

I hope I’ve given you enough to think about, and I hope you all make it on your dream team this year! I know that having so many choices can be very stressful and difficult, but once you sort it out  you will feel very relieved, trust! It’s easiest if you start off by process of elimination, being realistic about what you can and can’t handle, and narrow it down from there. Some of your cheer dreams may have to wait, and that’s perfectly okay, because cheerleaders always find their way in the world. 🙂

Cheer on!

-Mina


Cheerleading – A Sport or A Beauty Pageant?

At a recent 2-day competition we attended this weekend, all those hairspray fumes got to my head and got me thinking. Power Cheerleading is definitely a sport to those of us who are involved in it – we know how hard we sweat, condition, bruise, and endure pain to get to where we are, making flying through the air seem easy and defying gravity in tumble passes and pyramids. But to an on-looker who is unfamiliar with all this, the athletic aspect might seem to come in second.

I was telling one of my non-cheer friends about how I had to get a spray tan, spend two grueling nights in a row sleeping on curlers in my hair, have half of my top vision cut off and my eyes burn due to fake eyelashes and eyelash glue, and spend 45 minutes each day carefully applying competition make-up (which, as you know, involves a lot of glitter and bright red lipstick), and she (rightly so) exclaimed “Wow, sounds more like you’re going to a beauty pageant!”. Hmmm. Well, coupled with the giant bows on our heads, and shiny, skirted uniforms, competitive cheerleaders probably look like anything but serious athletes.

Think about it. How many other athletes wear bows on their heads and have to curl their hair or have the privilege to even wear their hair half-up-half-down? For a bunch of people claiming that we work harder than football players, we certainly don’t look the part. It seems to me that too much attention is being put on looking pretty at competition, while not enough is placed on hitting a flawless routine. Gymnasts don’t even tumble with their hair down, and certainly don’t wear so much glitter on their face, that they resemble incandescent lamps from far away. While there are other sports where looking pretty is required, (like figure skating or synchronized swimming), cheerleading is the only one that is still plagued with stereotypes. Putting such extreme efforts into appearance within our sport only confirms the existing stereotypes of cheerleaders to people unfamiliar with what we do (which sadly is a pretty large chunk of the population).

Don’t get me wrong, as a cheerleader I do enjoy getting primped for a performance, but I’m just saying it’s becoming rather on the extreme side. When people ask me “Why do you have to get a spray tan for cheer?”, I’m really not sure what to answer. Uhhhh….because we are a vain little bunch and strive to look hot in our itsy bitsy midriff exposing uniforms? I try and make up something like “If you’re too pale you look washed out in the bright lights and you really stand out…”

While this is true, at the end of the day, when you go out on that floor, the most perfect curls and the longest lashes in the world won’t make a difference if you hit a bad routine and have stunts fall. Judges almost never comment on makeup or tans on score sheets. Putting so much emphasis on your athletes’ appearance makes them unfocused, and adds to their worry. Having to worry about things like your eyelash falling and hanging off your eye mid-routine, or your hair getting stuck on your face while performing, is stressful. Instead of focusing on hitting sharp motions and sticking stunts, athletes (especially younger ones not used to it) can easily be distracted by wardrobe, hair, and makeup malfunctions.

It’s not really the coaches’ fault – it’s the way the whole industry is set up. Hair down shouldn’t be allowed, and fake eyelashes really won’t make a huge difference from 50m away (regular mascara will do just as well). The fact that our uniforms still involve skirts 100 years after the birth of  original cheerleading, is a little ridiculous, considering the sport’s advancements in athleticism. Take away what you want from this article, but consider that if we are to break up the stereotypes of cheerleaders being ‘ditzy, hot, dumb, bitchy, and vain’, we should probably ease up on the  Barbie factor at comp.

Cheer on!

-Mina


ICU Worlds Championship – All-Girl and Coed Partner Stunt Summary

Worlds is Finally here!! Lots of new teams showing lots of talent – the world of cheerleading has definitely stepped up its game, with a lot more countries kicking cheerleading butt. This sport has definitely evolved from its founding country, the USA. The only bad thing about this year’s Worlds is that it coincided with Wills and Kate’s Wedding dates 😦

All-Girl Stunt Group Summary:

Personal favourites with really strong performances were team Norway, Mexico, and Germany. Slovenia was really good too, considering they’re pretty new to the cheer front. USA as usual was super tight and clean, and since I’m Canadian, Team Canada is where my heart’s at. South Africa was in this championship for the first time ever, and although their performance wasn’t quite up to par with other teams, they had a fair and great first ever try. Canada did great but the girls seemed really nervous and not confident enough. A little shaky, but they stuck it all the way through so amazing job ladies! Finland wasn’t bad, but their bow went a little wonky which really threw me off. And speaking of bows, I was disappointed that Mexico’s flyer did he “cheat” bow by pulling her arm behind her leg instead of in front.

Team Germany:

COED Stunt Group Summary:

While the all-girl stunt group competition may have started off a little shaky for some, all the teams brought it ALL on the floor during their Coed stunts.

United Kingdom blew me away with their wheelchair performance!!! It’s definitely a must-see! COSTA-RICA was definitely one of my favourites! So strong, clean, and flawless! China’s performance was interesting due to their choice of music and choreography. Also really strong performances by Australia, USA (of course!), Slovenia.

A very energetic and athletic performance by Ecuador, and despite an unsuccessful first attempt at a hand to hand, they tried it again and did great. Mexico did a full-up while in heelstretch, which was pretty original. Denmark had the skill and was solid, but seemed to lack the confidence. Great job to also Finland, Sweden, and Chinese Taipei. Chinese Taipei’s flyer had great flexibility, and executed the ‘no hand heel stretch’ the best of anyone in the single stunt competition.

And of course, Canada did great with a solid performance as well!

Team USA:

CHECK OUT ALL THE OTHER VIDS at varsity.com!! (I really wanted to embed my fave videos here but am clearly code/html illiterate and couldn’t figure out how to do it, so could only put up the ones that were on youtube.)

Amazing job everyone! Can’t wait to see everyone’s full routines!!

Cheer on!

-Mina


ICU Worlds Only 3 Days Away!!

Get excited people! As sourced from American Cheerleader Magazine, this year’s World’s Championship will include more than 70 teams!! Many teams are already arriving at the Walt Disney World Resort to get accustomed to local time and to get a chance to practice on the big floor. Lots of first-time teams to look out for, like Kazakhstan and Zimbabwe!! It’s so exciting to watch this amazing sport grow throughout the world! Rumor has it that Russia is ready to rock this year as well. I wish I could be there so bad! But for everyone like me who can’t, I presume that Varsity.com will be doing their usual coverage and taping of all the teams and you’ll be able to watch them online on Varsity TV like they’ve done in the past.

Team USA is training hard at the Great Wolf Lodge in Dallas, Texas, and of course, everyone is excited to see what they’ll bring to the floor this year.

But, let’s be real, as a true Canadian, I’m mostly excited to watch Team Canada!! Anyway, the countdown is on!

Cheer on!

-Mina


OCF Provincials 2011

Yesterday was a rather emotional and very long day! Technically, it was a two-day competition, but luckily for our team we only had to compete Sunday. We competed in the Open 4.2 category. We had two runs, and pushed hard. We got there at 12:30 and had our first run around 3pm. First warm-up didn’t go so well, but luckily we pulled through when we got to the floor. I personally felt really good about that first run, in terms of my own stunts, except for a part in one of our pyramids that I fixed for the second run. I was extremely nervous for the first run, but I think that made me push harder and give it my all. Plus, I felt like throwing up right after, which is a good sign meaning that I did my best.

After the first run we were in second place with a team ahead of us and one behind us. We really, really knew we HAD to bring it all for the second run, because the team that was ahead of us wasn’t beating us by much, and we knew our routine was good enough to win if we gave it all.

Right before warm-up for the second run, we were all so exhausted already, that I wondered how we would bring it all on the floor. We conserved our energy during the second warm-up and only did a few stunts. I was a little bummed out that for our second run our coach decided to take out a few back walkovers (that I was super excited and had practiced a lot for) but in the end, it made sense since they weren’t perfect and were making the routine pretty messy. Guess I’ll just work extra hard to perfect them and hurry up and get my handspring already. (I know, I know, what kind of a cheerleader am I without a handspring is what you’re thinking lol.)

Anyways, despite the grogginess, we pulled through and (I hope) lit up the floor for run number two. Apparently we didn’t light it up enough, because we still ended up placing second, but we gave it our all and in the end of the day, the rest is out of our control. Shout outs to Wolverine Elite from Niagara, who came in first, as well as to Empire Cheer Eagles who came in third and put on a good performance too.

I was so exhausted when I finally got home, that when I fell asleep I had wild dreams of tumbling passes and back handsprings and a crazy fierce competition I was at… yes, cheerleaders really do eat, breathe, and SLEEP cheer. I kept waking up though because my arm was really sore and bruised up. Anyways, now we’re all off to practice for another two weeks so we can kick some French-Canadian  butt in Montreal!!

OH I almost forgot to also give shout outs to CCA’s own Blue, Black and Silver teams who did amazing as well. Black team were Provincial Champs out of 6 other teams, and Silver placed 3rd! HURRAY CCA!

Well, that’s all for now!

Cheer on!

-Mina

PS. Kyleigh and I have officially decided that when we open our own cheer gym one day, our animal mascot will be the Elephants. Or the Hyenas…that would go over pretty well I think. No?