Monday, March 29, 2010

I Was a Cheerleader

(This was my varsity squad my senior year. I am on the second row, second from the left)

Yes, I was. I was a cheerleader in 8th grade, 9th grade, 11th grade and 12th grade. I didn't do it in 10th grade because in 9th grade, when tryouts for 10th grade rolled around, our house was on the market and my dad was already living and working in another state. I knew we'd be moving and didn't think it'd be fair to make the squad and then bail. We moved in the exact middle of 10th grade, so I probably could have done it, since the big thing to cheer for in high school is football. We moved in February. When tryouts at my new school rolled around, I didn't hesitate to jump right in and go for it. I had complete confidence that I would make the squad, with my previous experience in cheerleading and my years of experience with gymnastics.

Today, I was flipping channels while working on an Easter dress for my daughter and a show came on where one of the main characters wants to be a cheerleader.

Let me put it this way--I cheered in two different schools in two different states. The way cheerleading is depicted on television and in movies is nothing like the real thing. So I wanted to clear a few things up.

First, there is a cheerleading adviser or coach. That person helps in choosing the members of the squad(s) and teaches the routines and is in charge of all things related to fundraising, uniforms, rules, etc. It is not run by the head cheerleader. She is usually voted for by the squad members. One squad I was on had two because there was an even vote. The other cheerleaders do not pick who gets on the squad.

Second, cheerleading tryouts are generally in front of a panel of impartial judges, usually brought in from the NCA (National Cheerleading Association) or the USA (United Spirit Association) in addition to the adviser or coach. Often, there is also a tryout in front of the student body and they vote for the top 12 or 15, or however many cheerleaders there are. The current cheerleaders might help choreograph the routine and even teach it, but that is their only role in it.

Third, cheerleading tryouts are held in the spring for the following school year. I can't even count how many shows depict tryouts as being at the beginning of the school year. This wouldn't happen. During the spring tryouts, there are alternates picked just in case someone moves or gets injured. Those girls get to step up in the fall if someone ends up leaving. Sometimes, nobody fills the open spot. On two of my squads, somebody left in the middle of the year for medical reasons and nobody took their place.

Fourth, cheerleaders aren't always airheads or snotty popular girls. Almost everyone on all four of my squads took honors and advanced placement classes and participated in other extra-curricular activities like band and other sports (diving, swimming, track, gymnastics). I myself attended college on an academic scholarship. As for the popularity thing, that probably varies from school to school. I had friends in band, orchestra, choir, and participated in National Junior Honor Society and Beta Club as well. So did many of the other cheerleaders.

So next time you see a movie depicting some weird last-minute cheerleading tryouts where there are no adults around and all the cheerleaders are snotty, popular girls who are airheads, remember, that is only a Hollywood stereotype and not at all the real thing.


swedemom said...

It really depends on where you live. In Wyoming they never brought in impartial judges to choose the cheerleaders, it was just the coach who chose the girls. Our cheerleaders were never that experienced!

When my older sisters went to school, the most popular girls were cheerleaders.

When I was in school, the popular girls played volleyball and a lot of the weird girls were cheerleaders. Funny how it changes, isn't it?

Royalbird said...

In all the schools I went to, the most popular girls also were usually cheerleaders. However, being a cheerleader did not ensure popularity. Not all of the cheerleaders on the squad(s) were popular, only the select few.


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