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I Am An Athlete This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   I am an athlete. I am a cheerleader. I am tired of society's stereotypes andmisconceptions. Often, when an uninformed person thinks of cheerleaders, theypicture a group of airheads bouncing around in short skirts. Unfortunately, thisis a misconception held by many people which is wrong. As a captain of my teamand a youth cheerleading coach, I know and understand the stamina and abilityrequired to succeed in cheerleading.

Cheerleading demands strength,spirit, flexibility, enthusiasm, trust in your teammates, and confidence inyourself. As a coach, I see young girls, who are shy and keep to themselves,transformed into confident and eager cheerleaders. As a captain, I see individualhigh school students become a team built on trust, hard work, andfriendship.

I have been a cheerleader for over seven years and a coach forthree years. I have become a hard-working, independent, young woman.. I amconfident in myself and my ability. As both a coach and a captain, I spend myfree time creating new cheers and dances, and choreographing routines. Because ofcheerleading, I have had the opportunity to perform in the halftime show at theHoliday Bowl in San Diego, California, and perform in the 1996 Macy'sThanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

Youth Cheerleading Organizationsprovide young girls with a place to develop their skills as a cheerleader, andtheir self-esteem. High school cheerleading teams put those skills to use and continueto develop confidence. College cheerleading is the culmination of these skills.At this level, only the best of the best succeed. For most cheerleaders, theseason begins in late March/early April with tryouts. It continues through thesummer with practice three or four days a week. The football season begins inSeptember, ending in late November. The hockey or basketball season starts inDecember and ends in late February, leaving less than a month off. This time isusually spent working out in preparation for tryouts.

Cheerleading throughto the college level is very athletic. At the professional level, however, thedegree of athletics regresses fifty years. Many people watch NFL football gamesand see these women, like the Dallas Cowboy's Cheerleaders. These women help tocontinue the misconceptions of society. Although these women call themselvescheerleaders, they are nothing but sex objects. They give cheerleading a badimage. Anyone who thinks of these women as cheerleaders should watch one of theNational Cheerleading Competitions aired on ESPN. The young men and women. Theyperform routines based on athletic ability and not sexual explicitness. Thesecheerleaders do aerial gymnastics while extended in the air over the heads of thebases (people on the bottom of a stunt who support the weight of the person inthe air, called the flyer). Bases release the flyer into the air and the flyerdoes multiple flips and gymnastics before landing in the arms of the bases. Anyone who watches these competitions, sees these stunts, and still maintainsstereotypical misconceptions about cheerleading is clearly ignorant.

Ihope that some people read this and find a new understanding of cheerleading. Andperhaps more athletic scholarships will be available to talented cheerleadersacross the country. Cheerleaders truly are dedicated athletes. For me,"Cheerleading is Life; the Rest is Just Details." l


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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