You were one in high school, you cheered with them at football games in high school or you hated them. There really is no in between when it comes to cheerleaders. However, there are a lot of misconceptions about cheerleading and the folks who do it.
I was a cheerleader for three years in high school, and I'll be continuing the sport into college. I am not blonde, I definitely wasn't popular and I'm not tiny. My uniform didn't feature a chiseled stomach showing throughout the school hallways, and I definitely didn't wear my uniform to school every single day. Hollywood and popular culture has portrayed cheerleading as the mean girls of any given high school or college, and it's just not true. Out of all the misconceptions about cheerleading, however, there are ten stand-outs that rank above all the rest. These are the ten things that cheerleaders want you to know.
1. It's nothing like "Bring It On."
It seems as if, thanks to Hollywood, everyone has a total misconception about cheerleaders. They think we're all beautiful girls with crop tops flaunting our stuff. In reality, this isn't true at all. It's nothing at all like the "Bring It On" movies; while some aspects of the franchise are true (yes, we compete at competitions, but that's about it for similarities), it mostly gets it all wrong. Overall, though, they're pretty entertaining movies, and we definitely watch them at all the cheer sleepovers we have.
2. We're not all blonde and popular.
The world is a diverse place, and so is the world of cheerleading. Once again, Hollywood paints a stereotype of what a cheerleader looks like: medium height, skinny but athletic and blonde. This stereotype is actually difficult to find at a cheer competition; each individual cheerleader is unique in their own way, and insisting that we look like something out of a state university sorority house is quite insulting.
3. We don't wear our uniforms to school every single day.
This isn't an episode of Glee. Hollywood also likes to show cheerleaders as ALWAYS BEING CHEERLEADERS, as if we don't have other qualities about ourselves worth sharing. This leads to the actor or actress playing a cheerleader never getting a costume change - they're always cursed to wear their uniform wherever they go. This, in fact, is severely untrue. Most teams will wear their uniforms on game days, but not on any other days. This is just an unspoken rule, and it'd be a little weird to wear your uniform out and about unless it was on cheering days.4. There are different types of cheerleading.
Cheerleading is a diverse sport. There's varsity sideline football/basketball cheerleading, which is the most commonly seen side of the sport. This is where high schools and universities will stand in front of the crowd in their uniforms and lead pre-rehearsed cheers to pump up the crowd. Then, there's varsity competition cheer. This is just like sideline cheer, except it's a competition. They perform cheers, stunts, jumps, tumbling (or "non tumble" in some cases) and dances in a routine for judges to score them on. There's also different categories that include stunting only, mascots, dance and more. Finally, there's all-star cheerleading. All-star cheerleading is, like, the Olympics of cheerleading. There's stunts, jumps, tumbling and dances, but there is no actual use of voice. The stunts get crazy, and the teams are wicked good.
5. Cheerleading is a sport.
We lift people. In the air. I never understood why people continue to insist that cheerleading isn't a sport; it requires strength, both physical and mental. Arm and leg strength to lift people into the air, mental strength to cheer through any weather conditions (and I mean any). We continue to cheer through the rain, snow, sleet and sun. There's nothing that can stop a cheerleader, including physical limitations.
6. Cheerleading is a dangerous sport.
Did I mention we throw people in the air too? Between cradles, baskets and other throwing stunts, cheer is dangerous. If you don't catch your flyer, they could suffer serious injury such as a broken neck, broken back, sprained wrists or even, in severe and serious cases, death. The physical demands of cheer can also cause different injuries such as pulled muscles, more broken bones and concussions. It's not something to be taken lightly, and cheerleading is one of the most dangerous sports to exist.7. We work out, too. Oh, and we don't skip leg day.
How do you think we get to the point where we can throw people into the air? Workouts. Lots and lots of workouts. Conditioning is one of the most important aspects of pre-season cheer practices; legs and arms need to be strong enough to lift the flyer into the air and keep her there, but limbs also need to be strong enough to throw them into the air. Oftentimes, cardio is also thrown in because cheer routines can be upwards of two and a half to five minutes long. You cannot simply get tired in the middle of your routine and give up; you need the strength and stamina to last the full time. Therefore, workouts are extremely important when cheerleading.8. We don't just cheer to look pretty.
We cheer for the satisfaction. It has nothing to do with looking good or pretty for our significant others. We also don't do it for attention. There are so many cheerleaders that are shy and timid in person, but they brighten up when hitting the field or the mat. It's a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that can't be achieved without the fulfillment of cheer in our lives. Is it an added bonus that we look cute while doing it? Absolutely.9. Cheering on a Friday night makes you lose your voice for the rest of the weekend.
Also, it gives you bruises on your thighs. Every Friday night, you literally have to yell over the game, the crowd and any other background noise that there is (ex: crying babies). This can be a difficult feat, especially if your cheer team is small. However, it's always accomplished that night - leaving you with a sore throat (and croaked vocal chords) for the rest of the weekend. The bruises on your thighs come from a "clean," which is when a cheerleader slaps her hands as tight as she can against her legs when a cheer is over/when a cheer is beginning to make sure everyone is on time. If you're dedicated enough that you're tight and always cleaning as you should be, there will be bruises, and they will last a long time.
10. Cheer gives you a family for life.
You get really close to your cheer team, so much so that you become a family. At the end of season banquet, there are tears, hugs and promises to never lose contact. Memories are shared, but you're also excited to start new memories with the next team. There are basically no boundaries on a cheer team because you've grown so close through every Friday night game, every cheer competition, every win, every loss and everything in between. Cheer without a family is simply not cheerleading. We'll always be family, no matter what.
Lead Image Credit: Kylie Anderson