To Fly Through the Sky
by Megan Marie Garwood, Troy High School, Michigan
What sport involves gymnastics, flexibility, jumps, stunts, motions, and cheering all in one? It is a hard sport even though some people don’t think so. Some may call us ditzy snobs, or say its too easy and doesn’t matter. Even though the football coaches and other sport teams may look right through us, they don’t realize the work, dedication, and heart that we put into our sport. No other sport than cheerleading could be so complex and broken down into three categories; practices, games, and competitions.
Practices are the most important things when building skills, teamwork, and a successful squad. We drill jumps such as; herkie’s, pikes, and toe touches. Hour after hour we pound our feet against the ground, as sweat drips down our pulled back hair. After every jump, our breath gets shorter, our legs ache a bit more, and our shoulder cramp up just as we begin to notice the bruises on our knees and hips. After all this work our team’s jumps must be perfect. Our legs must be straight as a board, our toes must be as pointed as a newly sharpened pencil, and a smile on our lips at all times. This is just a start to our three-hour practices.
After the strenuous jumping session we start stunting. Bases and backs must throw girls almost our same sizes up through the air. Each time we must reach our goal of getting higher and higher. Our tops must not move a muscle but stay tight and straight, holding their breath and making sure to twist as fast as possible on the way down. Just when we begin to tire we learn something new and even more challenging that we must throw, push, and shove up towards the sky. That may seem like enough practice but we go on learning our cheers and chants. It has been about one and a half hours of hard labor but we go on. Yelling our words, hitting each motion for fear we will have to re-do it yet again and again. Every time our coach expects us to be louder, faster, and sharper. Just when you think the cheer has been done enough times you are asked to do it “just” three more times. So at last we come to the end of the practice? No, its time to practice gymnastics. Our legs are weak and sweat is even coming from even our ears. We must push ourselves backwards and throw our bodies into the air. We get dizzy but we go on. Finally we reach the end, we are so tired we can hardly walk to sit down and talk about the practice and our new goals.
Games are the fun of a cheerleader’s week and viewed as an award for our grueling practice. We get to show the most important people in our lives, the crowd, what new skills we learned this week. Every skill we perform must be perfect with a smile on our face at all times. The smile can never fade even when we get kicked in the face from a falling stunt or punched from another cheerleader who’s a little too close to you. Yet with all this work, not a single basketball or football coach will ever tell us “Nice job!” or “Thanks, you really kept us going!” I even heard a coach say, “We all know the cheerleaders don’t really help us.” Even though we are so under appreciated, we cheer at every game and support every football or basketball player each day. Why? It’s just because we love the sport so much we could never imagine life with out it.
Competitions could be the greatest or worst moment in a cheerleader year. This is where we really push ourselves. Our whole season is for this. Every practice, every game comes down to these events. It doesn’t matter if you cheered wonderful at every game, what matters is if you get a trophy at this competition. It is so stressful because everyone must be together. If you mess up, just hit a high V a bit late, you just ruined your and your team’s chances of receiving a trophy. So we go out there, and when we start our cheer we use all the energy inside to yell the words, to not just jump but fly through the air, and to keep that smile on your face. And when you are done with that cheer, for a split second, it is dead silent. Then all of a sudden there is a burst of applause and we feel like we’re on top of the world. When we do this and everything is perfect, we might have a chance of coming home with a trophy. A trophy doesn’t just mean our team placed first, second, or third. It means we came together as a team, and learned we can work so hard and want something so bad we can achieve anything. We realize then that all the work, missing nights with friends and staying up late just to work on the cheer one more time, has really paid off.
These practices, games, and competitions bring our squad closer than ever. We learn that cheerleading comes from the heart and it makes the best of friends. Each girl on the squad shares a special friendship with everyone else. Each coach grows a special bond with every team member. A bond needed to succeed in cheerleading. It is not just the skill and practice of a squad that makes it the best, but the person who molds the team. Sometimes I feel like just quitting cheerleading, but I think of a saying my old coach once told me, “Some people reach for the stars, while cheerleaders jump up and grab them.” It makes me realize that cheerleading is not just a sport but also a way to live life. It teaches you to reach for your goal and never give up. So football and basketball coaches might think cheerleading is useless and the dictionary states that it is a sport that calls for and directs cheering, I would say my definition of cheerleading would be this: a way of life where girls can fly.