You might think it’s silly to be writing a “Why I Play” piece on cheerleading. Some of you might be reading this thinking, cheer isn’t even a sport. Don’t be fooled by the constant smiles you see on our faces, that’s just part of the job. Behind the perfect ponytail and short skirt is an athlete who works very hard to be the best at what she does. I bet most of you can throw a football, make a free throw shot or hit a baseball. Question, how many of you can do a standing back flip? And that right there is why I cheer.
I never got into ball sports. I wanted to dance and be a gymnast. Ballet was fun as a little girl, getting to wear a pink leotard, tutu, and ballet slippers. I soon realized I absolutely hated wearing tights. My mom got tired of fighting me on the tights issue, so she put me in gymnastics where tights were not a required part of the uniform. I thought gymnastics could be the sport for me. At practice I was captivated by the older girls who could flip and tumble through the air. I aspired to do that one day. However, my idea of being a competitive gymnast was short lived. I was already taller than every girl in my class by the age of five. But then something wonderful happened. I was approached by a coach who introduced me to cheerleading.
From that first day, I was hooked on cheer. I loved everything about it. Stunts, tumbling, jumps, all of it. I loved seeing the progression in my skills. Working on a new tumble pass is the scariest thing ever. If you don’t fully commit or you set wrong, you will eat mat. Literally! Cheer has taught me that no matter what happens, you have to dust yourself off and try again. Eventually, after landing on your knees too many times to count, you’ll finally land your tumbling pass. Individual skills aside, cheer is about the team. It doesn’t matter how great an individual athlete is, your team is only as good as the girl who touched out on her tumbling or dropped her stunt. If someone gets hurt, there is no second string to take her place. Everyone is important and needed to make the routine work.
Every guy you talk to will tell you they never want their daughter to be a cheerleader because it’s not a real sport. My dad is the exception. My dad has always been my number one fan. He had no choice, as my mom was always Team Mom, doing everyone’s hair and makeup before the competition. She was the best cheer Mom around no questions asked. My dad rose to the occasion. My dad comes to every competition and every game I cheer at. One of my favorite childhood memories is my dad coming to competitions with blue hair in support of my gym’s colors. Every time before I go out on the mat, my Dad tells me to “Bring It.” I will take that with me for the rest of my life. I’ve had the most supportive family, cheering me on for my whole athletic career. I was lucky to have my little sister choose to be cheerleader. Not many people get to be teammates with their siblings.
In high school cheer we practice every day after school, cheer at a game every Friday night, and compete on Saturdays for a season that starts in late April and goes until March. While exhausting and sometimes hard to find a balance between school, cheer and free time, I wouldn’t have wanted my high school years any other way. Being a part of the Valor Varsity cheer team for the last four years has been nothing short of a movie. Having the opportunity to cheer on my school at both Football and Basketball State championships, multiple times, over the last four years was an incredible experience. Getting to be a part of those victories was overwhelming. The Valor cheer team has had miraculous success as well. Winning State championships back to back my Senior year was like the final scene in every sports movie out there. Everyone said it couldn’t be done, but to hear the announcer call, “It’s the closest the scores have ever been. The winner by .01 points. Your 2017 4A state champions…… Valor Christian High School!” All of our blood, sweat and tears payed off.
To put on the Valor uniform has been an honor. Representing a school that stands for nothing less than excellence for the right reasons is incredible. Our head coaches Kallyn and Jenna have instilled in us that when we leave this program, we are to be a good cheerleader, but most importantly, to be a great people that will work hard, will show respect to all and do the right thing even when it might be tough.
Cheer has been a major part of my life for over 13 years. I honestly don’t know what’s next. Will I continue to cheer at the collegiate level? Will I come back and coach a team of my own? Only time will tell. One thing I know for sure, I will take everything I have learned from the sport and program with me: the memories, the friendships, the life lessons. This season might be the last I ever hold pom poms and put on a bow, but I will always be a cheerleader no matter where I go.