Cheerleading, to those who have only seen glimpses of them on television and on the internet, is easy to assume as an activity where the girls are hot and the skirts are short. With pompoms of course. Oh and the guys? You probably could never figure out why they would ever want to be involved in something as “unmanly” as this. For most people, they would not even consider Cheerleading as a sport but instead as a pastime, a hobby to engage in because you think we have that much time. Parents see it as a waste of time, never quite on the same league as other team sports like Soccer or Netball. The first reaction when male Cheerleaders tell their guy friends that they’re into Cheerleading is “Wah, you’re a lucky guy, can touch girls for free”. Even if you don’t say it as frankly as I did, that’s exactly what you’re thinking when you give us that smile with the raised eyebrows. We do not blame you for having such opinions, you would only understand something from the way it is portrayed. However, I hope you will be open to new ideas that we will present to you about Cheerleading and maybe, just maybe, at the end of this post, you will understand and respect our passion for Cheerleading and acknowledge that it is indeed a sport just like the rest of them you see in the Olympics 🙂
As a Cheerleader, as the word suggests, we lead the cheers. So what do we expect from someone who is leading a cheer? Liveliness, great expressions, sharp movements and positive energy that will permeate throughout the audience. That is exactly what our performances are about. If we want audiences to cheer with us, be it for our team or for an organization which has hired us to perform, we need their attention. Precisely why our uniforms are so bling bling.When they look at us, a curiosity builds up inside each of them as to what we’re going to do and having got their attention, we go about doing what we’re best at, Cheerleading. I’m sure they would look at us if we suddenly started doing stunts but most people won’t notice until midway and that’s where the attention from our uniform helps us. Our full performance will be seen and they will be looking out for us. Imagine if your fans only came to your football stadium in the second half to watch you play, the first half would just lose its beauty. The crowd is the 12th man and it is no different for us. Nothing wrong in wearing bright colours to attract your attention in return for guaranteed entertainment right? 🙂
Our performances aren’t just about shaking pompoms though. Today, a Cheerleading routine consists of stunts, gymnastics, dance as well as cheer. This takes a lot of practice and strong focus. Just like any other sport. Strength is not enough to hit your stunts, you need the right technique. When you have the technique, you then need to develop your stamina to maintain your energy levels throughout a 2.30 mins routine. on top of all that, you still need to look good while you’re doing it. No other sport can boast of such a demanding scope, to carry on with a smile on your face even when your body is screaming for you to stop. Beneath every wide smile you see from a cheerleader on the day of competition, is their tears and perspiration from their road to Nationals, an ode to the Cheerleader spirit that will flicker every now and then but will never die.
There’s not that many parents who would openly support their daughter or son when they decide to continue cheerleading even at University. Not as a career, simply as a passion they are willing to develop. The importance of education cannot be stressed enough in these troubling times where even degree holders are having problems finding jobs with competition from better qualified foreigners. The obvious solution to parents would then be to push their child to make themselves more employable, be it learning other languages, engaging in further education beyond a single major and things like that. Cheerleading does not quite fall into the same category. Why do you do this, what can you do with it, they ask. The truth is, not much. Do you need a reason to do something that makes you happy? If it clouds your judgement of what is important in life, maybe. Although for most of us, we are clear what this is and know that at the end of the day, life still goes on once we step out of the mats. We try hard to balance our time so we have time to study as well as cheer. It is our responsibility as sons and daughters to show that we have grown up and we know what we’re doing. This can only be done in being at the very least moderately successful in our juggling act. So we’ll work towards its but a little support along the way, would really help. Cheerleading means something to us but your silent approval in place of the reasoning with us about how we’re wasting our time, or that “good luck” while you’re reading the newspaper as we leave for our competition….that means the world to us. Let us go where our heart lies, we won’t let you down.
Being a base in a cheerleading team is not something everyone can handle. You need guts, lots of it. You face the world knowing that they don’t have a very good opinion of you but you believe that you’re there to change just that. We execute our stunts with confidence and style, we make audiences think to themselves, “Wow, I wish I could do that.” There is a lot of pride when we hit stunts, especially when we know it is a difficult one. We understand that we may only be successful after the 10th or the 100th or even the 1000th attempt but there was never a question of giving up. We take care of our flyers, their safety is above ours and we’d rather take the blame for a failed stunt then burden them with it. We exert a lot of strength and energy during the performance and it takes great resistance to keep a smile on our faces. We know the focus is usually on the flyers we support with our bare hands but we don’t let our egos take over, we do what we’re supposed to do for the team, bit-part or main, whatever it may be. Win or lose, we cheer for everyone with our hearts and congratulate them. Regardless of age, experience or background, we learn from others and push ourselves to better our own achievements.A professional, a sportsman and a gentleman. The aspiration that Victoria School in Singapore has for its boys. Now that’s what I call a man.
In a Cheerleading team, there is an unspoken mutual understanding between bases and flyers. I assure you that no girl, Cheerleader or non-cheerleader, likes to be touched by other guys. Though they understand that it is necessary for the stunt to happen. We can’t toss her up in the air with our eyes, we’re Cheerleaders, not magicians. They may wear uniforms that reveal their midriff but you should also understand that it provides a better grip for the bases to do the stunts. As a base, I do remember feeling nervous each time I tried stunts with a new flyer, the responsibility in your hands weigh down on you almost immediately(literally) and your focus remains on just that. A girl’s modesty is one thing she wishes to uphold at all times but she brushes aside her discomfort and puts complete trust on her bases so the show can go on. The bases put their bodies on the line to make sure that no matter what happens, their flyer remains safe. Once in a while, usually when fatigue sets in, the stunt may fail and the flyer may injure herself. When we know we’re at fault, it is one of the most depressing feelings you could ever have. We exhaust ourselves on perfecting our stunts and all our energy and concentration is geared towards the stunt, where anything can happen in an instant. We enjoy training together as a team but we deal with the pressure of being there for our flyers all the time. We are a team that is built on trust and there has never been nor will there ever be a situation where this will have to be discussed in the open. So for those who think cheerleading is a fun ride for guys, I urge you to come try Cheerleading to find out. Sometimes, we make it look easier than it really is. A few toss to hands and a tryout as a spotter for our pyramid, I assure you, you’ll change your mind. We respect women and you should too 🙂
I hope that this post has set you thinking about the disparity between the portrayal of Cheerleading in the media and the reality of it from those who have been there, done that. We are not criticising or blasting anyone but we would just like to help you understand that Cheerleading is very much a sport like the rest of those you’re familiar with. The tone of this post is different from the rest but our purpose here in this blog is to give you an honest portrayal of what we deal with as Cheerleaders and real emotions that come with it.We have a passion for cheer and we continue to push hard to redefine the boundaries of our achievements. This means a lot to us and we hope you’ll give us the support and appreciation we need to carry on believing that it was worth the blood, sweat, tears, time and everything else. So the next time you see a Cheerleader, smile at them because you know what they went through to be able to put on that uniform.
Cheerleader and proud of it.