Cheerleaders. My daughter is one. I’m sure by her definition she is an athlete and if you every watch her and the squad of other cheerleaders perform in a competition you would agree that cheerleaders are athletes. Yes they are strong and can jump into the air and flip over and land back on their feet just like Jackie Chan. They can flip each other into the air and then catch them into a “basket” of arms, saving them from what would be an undoubtedly painful landing to the floor. What they do in 3-5 minutes takes athleticism, no question.
If you watch Cheerleaders you realize there is so much more than athleticism. Imagine I tell you that some friends and I are going to through you 10 feet into the air and catch you when you come down – do you trust us? Imagine running towards some other people and starting to flip over and over, hoping they will be out of your way before you get to them. I don’t know about you, but you have to develop quite a level of trust in your teammates (your squad) to do this with a smile on your face – and smile is just what they do! All the while that are executing hundreds of moves as one synchronized machine, constantly in a near miss of one another. The funny thing is the way they are smiling they seem happy about it! No, not really – I think it is just part of their training, their artistry, their showmanship. In fact, their expressions are as much fun to watch as the their routine. They are true show[wo]men and put 150% into a show for around 6 -8 people – the judges. They know every nuance of their routines and at that exact moment they know how to strike a pose.
To achieve this level of cheerleading you must be committed. Few get onto the mat to perform and many less ever get into a state sanctioned competition such as the Illinois High School Associations (IHSA) State competition. For the annual IHSA State Competition around 338 teams enter, but somewhere around 80 will make it though sectional competition to get to State Competition and many less to the Finals. It is a significant achievement to even get to State, if you are within the top ten after State then you are a very small percentage. Recognizing the challenge to be the best means recognizing a regimen of strength training, gymnastics, dancing and choreography, and regular practices with your team to perfect the show. Commitment – to say the least!
Athletes work hard to be the best, to excel, to win. Cheerleaders are like any committed athlete, they are passionate about their sport. They are there to win, and if they don’t they are not happy about it – if you have ever been an athlete you understand. My daughter was a competitive swimmer for many years, until an injury pulled her from the pool. I loved to watch her swim in competition – she is an athlete and put everything into each race. You could see it in her pre-race preparation, both physical and mental, and you could see her passion when she won and when she didn’t do so well.
I love that my daughter is a Cheerleader and an athlete. I love that she is so committed and deeply passionate about it. If you have a cheerleader – watch them, carefully and intently. What they can do is simply awesome!
See Megan and the Grayslake North High School Cheerleaders perform in Finals Competition at the 2012 IHSA State event HERE.