Never Will I Ever

For fourteen years I convinced myself that I would never become a cheerleader. I was a competitive, nationally ranked gymnast. I wore leotards, not mini skirts; I trained, not practiced. I was not a cheerleader. Year after year I saw former teammates switch from the world of gymnastics to the world of competitive cheerleading. The worlds are too different to compare. We gymnasts claimed cheerleading corrupted its members and provided a hostile environment, but gymnastics taught its members discipline and dedication. We all knew that you only switched if you suffered a serious injury or you could not take the pressure of training twenty to forty hours a week.

In November of eighth grade, I tore a ligament in my elbow performing a simple handstand during warm-up. No longer could my elbows handle the pounding and tumbling of a gymnast. It was time for a change. During this time of transition I thought of all the sports I have played in my life: basketball, swimming, track, soccer, but I did not want to play any of those sports in high school. One of my favorite parts about gymnastics was the tumbling. Cheerleading allowed me to tumble, but not as much as I did in gymnastics. I broke my own rule; I became a cheerleader.

Cheerleading taught me more than how to execute the perfect toe-touch. In many ways cheerleading taught me how not to act. The sport is an oxymoron. It’s pink, fluffy, and sweet on the outside, but on the inside it is cutthroat, competitive, and dangerous to the mind, body, and soul. I have never witnessed so much secrecy, manipulation, and lies as I did in high school cheerleading. Every Tuesday and Thursday I dreaded going to practice because I was terrified of being the coach’s next victim. Humiliation was used as a punishment. Intimidation was a constant presence. It was a miracle if the entire team made it through practice without shedding a single tear.

I do not believe intimidation is motivation; rather, inspiration is motivation. I do not want to treat people the way my cheerleading coach treated people. She did not inspire me; she intimidated me. Yelling, screaming, and crying are not effective ways of communication. I do not believe in manipulating people in order to get what I want. Just like gymnastics, cheerleading has taught me discipline and dedication. The only difference is that in gymnastics, rigorous conditioning was my discipline. But in cheerleading, the discipline is worse than conditioning. I would rather do hundreds of sit-ups and push-ups than listen to my coach yell at me for accidently yawning and not covering my mouth.
Cheerleading is similar to war. It is impossible to stay alive if you do not fight. Chinese general and military strategist, Sun-tzu, once said, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” This quote should be on the back of cheerleading t-shirts. It is the epitome of cheerleading. The sport is a controversy in itself. There are people that hate you solely because you are a cheerleader, yet everyone wants to be a cheerleader. I will never understand that. I have seen other students criticize cheerleaders and mock us for being stereotypical. I admit that certain parts of my physique and personality fit the cheerleader stereotype. I am blond, preppy, and perky, but just because of that I am taunted, ridiculed, and in simple words, made fun of. But, I do like to think of myself as a generally “nice” person, which is rare trait in most high school cheerleaders.
Gymnastics and cheerleading are two very different worlds. Though there are many negative associations with being a cheerleader, I have never regretted my decision to become one. Cheerleading, just like any other sport or job, is filed with important life lessons and difficult decisions. I have learned to respect adults, no matter how difficult it can be and to treat people with respect even if they do not reciprocate it. I came into cheerleading thinking it was easier than gymnastics. I was wrong.





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