My daughter was born a natural performer. She started ballet at three and flourished in classes. The annual showcase was when she did her best and performing in front of crowds of hundreds of strangers never gave her a second thought.
We assumed that dance was her “thing.”
At around four, she started showing interest in tumbling. She would do round-offs and cartwheels in the yard every day until she physically couldn’t. She came home from summer camp one afternoon in the second grade and proudly announced “I am going to do a back handspring like the big girls at camp do,” walked outside, and nailed it.
That’s when I enrolled her in tumbling classes.
I was absolutely unfamiliar with the concept of cheer. I knew they had short skirts, obnoxious music, and was known to be really expensive. My daughter had been interested in our local all-star gym for a long time and had been pushing me to allow her to join.
A few summers ago, after her relentless begging, I gave her a choice: she could do cheer, but had to quit dance and tumbling. She couldn’t do everything, I told her. “Ok!” she said. She was all in.
Because of my hesitation with how she would do for the first season, I requested they put her on a prep team. I paid her fees, got her schedule, and off she went.
That was three years ago. Now she is a cheer-addict, and it has been the absolute best thing I could have ever done for her, as well as myself.
The Passion and Drive
Cheerleading is considered a mental sport due to the intensity and dedication it requires. It has been my daughter’s reality to walk away from the mat with a fractured wrist, tears in her eyes due to a fall, and getting in the car after practice upset at how many times they had to repeat their routine that night.
However, it has inspired something in her, as well as others on her team, that has been breathtaking to see.
Being a part of a community of 9-12 year old girls winning national titles over the past couple of years has been a beautiful experience to be part of. They cry together and hold each other when the routine doesn’t go as it should. They understand the goal and they lift each other up.
These are girls who attend school 5 days a week but forego all other personal activities in order to spend their time in the gym.
They are motivated by the desire to win. They understand that in order to win, they have to work together.
The Sportsmanship and Competition
On the day of the competition, the energy is high. There is always so much excitement.
My daughter always gets nervous, but she calls it “excited-nervous,” where she is super pumped but also wants to throw up. When her team comes out on the mat, tears always flood my eyes. Their dedication and hard work make me incredibly proud.
Like all things in life, you can’t win everything. Even though my daughter has been a part of some really talented teams, they have experienced some heartbreaking losses.
They win as a team and they lose as a team.
If a stunt falls, it’s a team loss. If someone doesn’t time their tumbling correctly, it’s a team loss. There is no finger-pointing. There is no blame game.
Cheer is built around healthy competition. Teams at competitions from around the country come together, and while you might think there are a lot of ugly attitudes, the reality is quite the opposite.
You can pass any team and everyone is yelling “Hit zero!” and “Good luck!!” to one another, and not one person knows the next. This is exactly the experience I want my daughter to be a part of.
Despite the fact that these teams are part of gyms that are competing against one another, they are all aware of the amount of effort that has gone into being there and respect each other because of that.
The Friends and Support
One of the most rewarding aspects of my daughter’s participation in cheer is the friendships that she has formed. She has made friends with girls from other teams and those from her own, both younger and older than her. Every one of them has been very encouraging.
If someone is going through a mental block, trying to hit a stunt, or working on a new tumbling pass, they motivate and push them to keep trying.
They rally around each other in a way that I have never seen little girls do.
Cheerleading’s supportive environment has done wonders for my daughter’s self-esteem and self-confidence. She knows that if she is having a hard day at school, she is going to the gym later that day to see her crew.
Cheer has also been good for me in terms of support. When you travel for weeks together during the season and are in constant contact about team news, you can’t help but grow closer. I have found some wonderful friendships in the parking lot of that gym.
Besides, who better to relate to when it comes to stress, financial woes, and life conflicts than a fellow cheer mom?
The long days out of state and the amount of days at the gym might sound like a lot to most, but when I watch my daughter during those 2.37 minutes on the mat, she is on top of the world.
I love that I get to witness that.