C'mon fans, don't try to fake it. Stand up now and lemme see you shake
it.... The chant is familiar and easy, but the sport is not. Cheerleading
is hard work.
Cheerleading is a sport of dedication, strength, and talent in which over
4.3 million young men and women between the ages of 14 and 18 participate.
Cheerleader Robyn Gmeindl says it's "not just a sport, it's a lifestyle.
But you know what, I wouldn't trade it for the world."
Surprisingly, most people involved in the sport do not say you have to
be naturally outgoing. "I think almost anyone can be a cheerleader, if they
are determined enough," says Heather Cary. "I don't think there is one certain
personality that they need. Just be enthusiastic!"
Cheerleading, or cheering, is a series of movements. These include jumps,
formations, arm and leg gestures, and chants. They are designed to get the
audience to join in.
While cheering started out as a way to inspire team sports, cheerleading
is now a sport in itself. There are many different competitions. One of the
biggest is the college nationals, held every year in Florida. The tournament
is covered on ESPN and CBS.
But you don't have to be a top performer in order to participate in cheering.
Some leagues or clubs form just for fun. They don't exclude anyone, no matter
how old you are.
"You really learn to love your school that way. I think that's important
for college success and the college experience," says Jeff Cupido of Arizona.
It is a female-dominated sport. This is despite the fact that a male started
organized cheerleading back in the late 1890s. More men are becoming involved,
"There is no problem we have that other sports teams don't encounter. We
treat each other as equals, and actually the guys tend to look out for the
girls as sisters," says Cupido.
Scott Watkins started out as the only male on his high school cheering
squad. "It wasn't easy being the only male on the squad. Of course, there
were a lot of wisecracks coming from the crowd, and at times that made it
hard to continue."
But he stayed with it because he liked the challenge. Now he coaches cheerleading
at a high school in Oklahoma.
"I think more people should get involved with cheerleading," says Watkins.
"There are many benefits. Cheerleading emphasizes teamwork unparalleled by
sports such as football or basketball. Of course, timing and precision are
key to success in these sports. It is also the key to safety in cheerleading.
One person not concentrating on their job in a stunt or toss, and an injury
Cheerleaders are scored on the technical merit of such physical elements
as jumps, gymnastics, and pyramids. They are also scored on the kinetic merit
of their motions, synchronization and crowd involvement.
Betty Moore is a competition judge in Illinois. Her main frustration with
her role is having to disappoint someone. "Someone has to win in the end."
But "enjoyment comes from recognizing the skill levels that squads are
capable of achieving, and the excitement on their faces as they perform a
Being a competition judge is one of the job opportunities available in
cheering. Some positions are paid. Others are voluntary.
You could also be a coach, or a cheerleader with a professional sports
team. Look at some of the college and university websites for coaching jobs.
Professional sports team websites sometimes provide information online about
how to apply to join their squads.
"It takes time to learn, but once you can do it, all that hard work pays
off. People are just amazed at the fact that you can balance someone over
your head. I love it," says Cupido.
Cheering is a sport like any other and can help earn you scholarships.
Participants must keep up their grades while holding down a demanding practice
and competition schedule. "My team practices for eight hours a week, starting
in September, ending in May, with a few breaks for exams and holidays," says
Cheerleading doesn't need to be expensive. Most squads do a variety of
fund-raising activities to pay for uniforms and trips. But this means more
of a time commitment. During tryouts, simple sweats and T-shirts usually suffice.
Fitness is important in cheering, but it also keeps you fit. "It promotes
aerobic training," says Watkins. "It is fast-paced, demanding strength from
every part of the body. A cheerleader must yell, stunt, tumble, jump, and
lead a crowd, all in a short span of time. It is very demanding, with discipline
being the most important aspect."
"Although it requires a good amount of physical wellness and endurance,
strength is not an important issue. Cheer is mainly mental and good technique,"
"We have to realize that the sport has evolved so much that we can't even
compare it to the way things were 10 years ago," adds Gmeindl. "It takes incredible
strength, endurance, stamina, dedication, flexibility, and coordination. Most
importantly, you have to be willing to put your heart on the floor, and then
later pick up the pieces if things don't go the way you want them to. Instead
of complaining, we learn to accept it and move on."
When you take on the role of cheerleader, you also take on responsibility.
"He or she has to represent their school or organization in a professional
manner at all times. He or she cannot be seen breaking the rules or regulations.
The whole school looks to them," says Watkins.
World Cheerleading Association
PO Box 220098
We've Got Spirit: The Life and Times of America's Greatest Cheerleading
James T. McElroy
American Cheerleader magazine
250 West 57 Street, Suite 420
Information for cheerleaders on tips, techniques, fitness and
Power Cheerleading Athletics
This site has information about camps, clinics, training, competition
and lots more