The Thrill of Being a “Cheerleader”

Okay, let’s face it – cheer is addictive. But why? What makes it so difficult to quit, or to even think about quitting, and how do so many people get sucked into this sport, only to emerge some 15 years later, (mind you, only because their broken-down and over-stretched bodies could no longer take it) with the final realizations that retirement time has probably come. Why do we continue suffering through countless hours of treachery, sweat, and fear of heights, when we could just be sitting at home relaxing, or doing a lower-intensity sport like aqua fitness? Surely, those must be better for our bodies?

I’m sure you’ve all got your clever answers ready – “I love the athleticism!” or “It keeps me in great shape”, or even “It gives me confidence and challenges me to attain new skills!”, you might say. “Perfecting a new stunt or a tumbling pass feels amazing!”, or “I love the teamwork and my teammates.” are also viable options. I hear you, and I feel you on those points too.

However, I think there’s a bit of an underlying thematic behind the sport that makes it particularly appealing and sticky. You may argue with me on this – but you can’t deny that it nevertheless does exist. What I am talking about is the thrill of ‘being a cheerleader’. There is still a lot of labels and perceptions about cheerleaders, many of which are unfortunately negative, but the main one having to do with sex appeal. There are few cheerleaders who don’t enjoy having an excuse to wear cure sparkly uniforms, massive amounts of glitter, and giant shiny bows on their heads. Just think about the number of people who dress up as cheerleaders for Halloween – clearly the uniform is a coveted item. In fact, from personal experience I can say that one of the main reasons that so many of the grade 9 girls tried out for my high school team was because they wanted that thrill of being able to say they’re cheerleaders. Since few (dare I say none) of them had ever actually stunted or tumbled before, the athleticism was definitely not the main reason for them trying out. I won’t lie, it was the same reason that I myself tried out. Surviving the rest of it was the true test of whether you were cut out or not. But for some, this ‘thrill’ and idea is what kept them going and motivated them to learn the difficult stunting combinations and push through 2 hour practices four times a week. After a few years of cheering, a bit of this novelty does wear off, but I don’t think it ever completely dies. It’s always fun to meet new people and boast about your stunting accomplishments and cheerleading highlights. After a while, all your non-cheer friends, relatives, and pretty much the world knows you as ‘a cheerleader’…and it becomes difficult to imagine what you would be if you quit. It literally becomes your identity. And frankly, I see nothing wrong with that. ❤

Cheers!

-M

 


Learning to Tumble at Twenty

For most all-star cheerleaders, tumbling is a skill that is picked up either before cheer altogether, or is learned along with cheer at a very young age.

I was introduced to power cheer at an age where most elite cheerleaders are already competing at world’s – and here I was, seventeen and learning double-base cradles. Tumbling wasn’t much of a question – on my high school team our most advance tumbling pass was a running cart-wheel. Our routines didn’t even have a tumbling section.

Then I somehow made it on my college team, where I realized I’d have to learn to tumble pretty quickly if I wanted to continue cheering. I remember watching a level 1 team at my first competition and admiring their back walkovers, which seemed like a difficult feat to me. Handsprings felt like something I could only dream of, and people who could handspring were my idols.

So after a gruelling three-month summer of once a week tumbling, I managed to achieve a bridge-walkover. Though I had once marvelled at this skill, I wasn’t satisfied in the least. I was by far one of the oldest girls in the class, and I watched with envy as 14 year-olds tucked, flipped, and twisted effortlessly. My semi-walkover seemed pathetic in comparison. I had level 1 tumbling (barely) on a level 5 team.

I knew that if I could just spend more time and practice a lot, I could achieve a handspring. And OH, how I wanted that handspring!

I was never quite satisfied with skills I achieved, even in stunting. I wanted to  get my scorp in the air so bad, and while I was happy the day I got it, by next practice I was already looking ahead to what skills I still hadn’t achieved. The same ethic applied to my tumbling. A back walkover meant nothing since the day I got it.

The following year I transitioned to all-star cheer. They didn’t have a tumbling requirement, but I knew that if I wanted to go far I’d have to tumble. I had an advantage, being a flyer, but I still didn’t feel like a well-rounded cheerleader. After all, what kind of cheerleader couldn’t tumble?

At the time, I couldn’t take any more tumble classes, because the gym was too far away from my school, and I couldn’t afford the costs either.

Finally, in my last year of university, and at 21 years old, I put my mind into achieving some basic tumbling, and I started taking private lessons at a gymnastics gym close to my school. After 3 lessons, I was doing unassisted back handsprings on the trampoline, and learning back tucks off the mini tramp. I’ve been taking lessons for a month and a half, and am starting to work on round-off back handsprings on the tumble track. I thoroughly enjoy the classes, and feel no pressure because I’m only competing with myself, and every small feat feels big to me. I hope to take my handsprings to the floor soon, and believe I can do it.

But I can’t help but wonder if my body will give out at some point, and limit my progress. After all, most tumblers start out much younger than me. The non-tumblers on my team all claim that they’re too old to learn to tumble, but is that just a restriction of the mind, or is it really possible to learn to tumble at twenty? Is there an age that’s too old for this sport? Or can willpower trump age? Does this age apply to stunting too?  I’m not sure, but I’m not about to let the answer stop me from trying.

Cheer on!


Team Canada Cheer!

Okay so before I go on to talk about this exciting event, I just want to mention that CCA Panthers’ Elite team competed in Cheer Evolution’s (formerly Cheer Alliance) Provincials competition this weekend both Saturday and Sunday and did great! They were going for a bid to World’s, but despite their great runs didn’t qualify because they didn’t have enough males on the team 😦 . But we love them and are super proud anyway!!

So now, to the important stuff – actually I should have blogged about this a few weeks ago when it actually happened, but I was overwhelmed with getting ready for Regionals and school etc. and didn’t have much time for blogging. SO, to compete at the International Cheer Union’s Annual World Cheerleading Cup Championship, TEAM CANADA’s roster was announced a few weeks ago! Led and trained by the Canadian Cheer Union, Team Canada is made up of some of Canada’s top gymnasts, tumblers, flyers, bases, and thirds! This year, they are gathered from 6 provinces and 14 different cheer gyms from around the country. So, are you ready to hear which gyms these athletes came from?

Power Cheer Toronto (PCT) and Cheer Force Wolf Pack (CFWP) tied at the top, each sending out a staggering 14 athletes divided up between the co-ed and all-girl teams. Next was Ultimate Canadian Cheer (UCC) with 13 athletes, two of which are competing in the co-ed partner stunt, 8 in the co-ed team, and 4 in the All-girl team. Vancouver All-Stars (VAS) had 10 athletes in total, 4 of which make up the  all-girl partner stunt, and CSS (Mary Ward) had 8 athletes on the all-girl team. Others include one athlete from UWO Mustangs, Power Cheer Calgary (PCC),  Supercats Cheer Motion Quebec,  U of Saskatchewan Huskies, Champion Spirit Athletics (New Brunswick), East Coast Spirit (ECS), and University of Waterloo. Great job to all who made it, but I have to say I’m proud that it seems Ontario is producing the best cheerleaders!

Here is a video of last year (2010) Team Canada’s All-Girl Performance!!

And here is Team Canada Coed! (2010)

The ICU World Cup Championships will be taking place on April 28th-29th 2011 in Orlando, Florida.

Good luck to everyone in training, and we will be rooting for you, Team Canada!!! C-A-N-A-D-A Canada, Let’s – Go – Canada!



“Cheerleading Is My Life”

Here, we come, the BLUE, BLACK, and WHITE. Panthers, All-Stars, Cheer and Unite!

So a few updates: Regionals went quite well last night, and I think we all felt pretty confident out on that floor! I was a little bummed that the nerves got the best of me, so I didn’t fully pull up my scorp during the partner stunts and instead went right to scale, but it didn’t look like a mistake when I watched the video so it wasn’t too bad. The other CCA teams that I watched (Black and Silver) did really good too. Black had really cute stunts, and Silver’s tumbling was awesome!

In this blog post, I’d like to share a few personal reflections on my love of this sport. This past weekend has really made me remember why I love cheerleading so so much, and it makes me so happy, that I feel the need to advertise it to the world!

It’s during competitions that I always vow that I’ll never stop cheering. Just having practices for a while can get kind of repetitive and tedious sometimes, but as soon as you come out and shine on that floor, you know that those grueling hours were well worth it! It’s during those 2:30 minutes that you fly to the moon and back, figure out the meaning of life, and restore peace to the world. You solve world hunger, you love with all your heart, and you live like you were dying. Because during those 2:30 minutes out on those 9 blue mats, you just know that anything is within your reach, and all you have to do is grab it.

For me, it starts about one week away from competition. That building excitement. It’s in the back of your head, poking its little glittery face around the corner. It’s all you ever want to talk about, and your non-cheer friends don’t get it and wish you’d stop bugging them about paying $15 to come watch you for two-and-a-half minutes.  You whip out the self-tanner and you make sure you have adequate quantities of bronzer and sparkles for the big day. You make sure to stretch every day, and do some conditioning to get your body into tip-top cheer shape. As the last practice before competition nears its end, you’re feeling confident. We got this in the bag.

The night before, you nervously fall asleep and dream of twisted routines, backstabbing handsprings, mocking judges and embarrassing uniform mishaps. You keep waking up  and checking the time every hour, until finally…

Eating Bananas before cheerleading competitions is one of my cheer traditions. What are some of yours?

You get up with a little knot in your stomach, you eat some bananas (bananas calm your nerves :)), and you begin your big day routine. You shower while mentally going over your cheer motions, and counting through the whole routine. Taking your time, you put on your uniform and do your hair and makeup carefully, while in the background your routine’s soundtrack is on replay. You lay out all your competition necessities on your bed, mentally checking each item off. Cheer shoes – check. Extra eye glitter – check. Lipstick – check. Uniform skirt – check. Bananas – check. Water bottle – check. Snacks and drinks – check. You look yourself over in the mirror, straighten out the giant bow on your head, smile, and pop your team jacket’s collar. Today is your day.

Arriving at comp, you can’t stop smiling, and you keep looking around at the other teams curiously. During warm-up, you give it your all, but  somehow it seems far from perfect. Stunts that were always solid at practice are all of a sudden falling down. Handsprings that were once a given are now hiding behind a sheet of nerves, causing injuries before the run. But you are strong. You are part of a team. And that team is with you in everything you do, and they won’t let those ugly nerves get to you, because they want that gold just as much as you do. And behind the curtain, ‘I’ becomes ‘WE’. And as our team is called out to the floor, WE BRING IT. WE smile so hard our faces ache. And those smiles aren’t fake – they are smiles because at this moment, WE are so happy. WE pull those sheets of nerves aside, and WE expose amazing handsprings, high jumps, and strong pyramids. “What injuries?” – WE say, and  WE pull our motions so tight that WE might snap in two at any moment. WE DO NOT BAIL, even when things go wrong. Shoes will fall off, bows will fly out, uniforms will come undone, and WE’ll still be going strong. WE pull those arabesques, heelstretches, scorps, and bows [okay maybe we’ve still got a bit of work to bows] like no tomorrow. Because during those 2:30 minutes, there IS no tomorrow. THIS IS OUR LIFE. WE LIVE TO CHEER.

-Mina

Battle wounds after our run!