By Jessica Yeager via OdessyOnline
May 29th, 2015
For as long as I can remember, I have been a cheerleader. I started out in the Pop Warner travel programs, progressed into the All Star world, and finally finished off my career at my high school’s varsity team. Through all of these different programs, I have learned the most by far through All Star cheer leading. I wasn’t the best in the gym, and I wasn’t there from age three to age 18, but it still gave me some of the best memories and experiences I have ever had.
Some of the best life lessons I know, I learned through the amazing program that I had the pleasure of growing up in, and I will be eternally grateful for that.
1. Confidence is key.
Even when you don’t feel confident, you fake it till you make it. There were times where I stood at the front of the mat at a competition after my stunt had fallen three out of three times in warm ups, and I was absolutely terrified, but I stood there with a smile on my face and told myself it’s gonna hit. And guess what? It usually did. And now that confidence has followed me onto other aspects of my life and helped me through some tough and low self-esteem times in my life.
2. Don’t get all dolled up, but be presentable.
A ponytail with a giant bow and cute sneakers are all you need when you come to the gym.
3. Size only matters when determining positions.
You’re six-feet tall? Perfect, we could use a back spot. You’re thighs aren’t super tiny? Good, we need strong bases. Your shape is never a judgement on your personality- all sizes are welcomed.
4. Trust is the strongest bond you can have with someone.
Trusting your coaches and teammates is absolutely everything when being a part of an All Star gym. You have to put all of your faith into your coaches while they hold you as you flip through the air and coach you through tumbling and stunting, knowing that without trust, you would never succeed. You also need to trust your teammates because you are throwing each other into the air, falling down into their arms and tumbling only seconds from each other and you need to trust that each of your teammates will do their part so that you are safe.
5. Your teammates are your everything.
Speaking of which, you realize that your teammates are your best friends and sisters. Hanging out with your “school friends” or “cheer friends” isn’t really a tough decision, and even though you might live all over the state, or even in different states (shoutout to the really dedicated cheerleaders that fly to their practices!), you are still best friends and would do anything for them.
6. Oh yeah, and your coaches too.
Your coach becomes your nutritionist, therapist, personal trainer, No. 1 fan and best friend. I can’t even count how many times I would cry to my tumbling coaches about anything and everything. I would argue with them, joke with them and tell them my life stories. My coaches were there for me through it all: my most vulnerable, my most confident, my least confident, my happiest, my most terrified and my absolute best. Coaches aren’t always appreciated, but they are truly a ginormous part of who I am as a person today and continue to be a part of my life.
7. Giving up isn’t an option.
Oh, you’ve been working on a stunt for four months, and it still hasn’t hit? Sorry, you can’t give up. You’ll probably just live at the gym for the next month every single day until it hits. The plus side is you learn to never, ever give up.
8. Fear will be inevitable.
There were times where I would have given my first-born child to not throw a tumbling pass on my own. I would beg and beg and beg my coaches to stand there “one more time” while I threw it because I was scared to go on my own. That feeling is unavoidable and doesn’t just go away, but it has shown me that you can overcome fears in life and that you need to face them head on.
9. You’ll always come back from being hurt.
Maybe you sprained your ankle, or maybe you broke your nose. Regardless, you will come back better and stronger than ever. This has helped me through break-ups, ending friendships, tough college classes and more. Although I may feel hurt at the time, I remember that I will always bounce back.
10. Conditioning can be fun.
Tumbling on a trampoline for an hour is fun and burns calories, you hit two birds with one stone.
11. And it can also suck.
While it can be fun, the times running laps behind the gym after dropping a stunt or in the burning summer sun are some of the most draining days of your life. However, you still miss them when you leave cheer (a little).
12. You’ll make friends for a lifetime.
I still keep in contact with all my best friends from my cheer gym and their families, too. Your teammates are always forever.
13. You’ll know more about hotels than most people.
I can probably name you every hotel in the Indianapolis area. Hotels become a frequent affair when competition season comes full throttle.
14. Convention centers aren’t as boring as they sound.
When most people hear “convention center” they think boring business meetings, but when you say this to cheerleaders, they think “jam fest.”
15. Girl-crushes are completely normal.
Being obsessed with the perfect senior who has the highest jumps and best facials on your favorite team at the gym when you’re twelve and look up to these girls is totally normal. I still remember the older girls at my gym that I used to look up to.
16. Listening to cheer music is a stress reliever.
Not being at the gym isn’t an excuse to not listen to cheer music. The car, the shower and any free time is spent watching cheer videos and listening to cheer music. I could probably sing you every word of Top Gun Large Coed’s 2008 Worlds music.
17. You always know at least five different teams’ routines, stunt sequences, and voice overs.
Like I said before, you walk around listening to music, marking the whole stunt sequence with different positions and counts (not actually pulling the positions, of course, because you’re a base and don’t have the flexablity for it). You know the head flyer’s facials and can do the center dancer’s choreography probably better than she can.
18. You’ll have a favorite team that you always HAVE to watch at every competition.
You might even root them on over your own gym’s team. Shhhh … don’t tell the owner!
19. You realize that your parents are your No. 1 fans.
Whether your meeting time is at 5 a.m., in last place and super crabby or you need to fly a million miles across the country for a competition, your parents will always be there for you cheering you on.
20. Blush isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.
Some people underestimate the importance of makeup at cheer competitions. If I forgot my lipstick, I basically just stabbed my coach in the heart. Stage presence is very important.
21. Lying about your age is normal.
Oh, you need to be 14 to get a spray tan? Looks like I need a fake birth certificate.
22. You soon learn that parents can be NUTS.
If you haven’t met a crazy cheer mom, you probably weren’t at a cheer gym long enough. You will see the moms screaming at their daughters and grounding them from friends, phones and worse for not throwing their tumbling or falling at a competition. You will also see moms screaming at coaches for not giving their daughter the center flyer spot. Dealing with parents is probably half the battle for All Star coaches.
23. And drama is unavoidable.
There will be drama. You basically live with your team, your coaches and these families. Embrace the fact that things won’t always be sunshine and rainbows, but you’ll love them regardless. Scandals, however, are another issue. Stay clear of those.
24. You’ll cry, bleed, break bones, lose sleep and constantly be sore.
Your body is going to hate you later in life, I hate to be the one to tell you. It has been two years since I have cheered, and my knees still crack every single time I bend down.
25. But it is definitely all worth it in the end.
But even with all of this, you still wouldn’t trade anything for the experiences, memories and friendships you have made through All Star cheer leading.