I was totally green the first year my daughter was in All Star Cheer. Growing up as a tom-boy, never one for frilly dresses and more likely to climb trees, this whole world of cheer leading was extremely unfamiliar territory. I remember the first days of taking my daughter to practice and seeing all the moms with their perfect hair and make-up thinking I will never fit in. And truth be told, I still don’t think I fit in. That’s okay.
Looking back, these are things I wish I had known up front or even as I was beginning what has become an eleven year cheer mom journey.
- Even though you may know the program prices up front, you’ll still have extra fees. Team t-shirts, goodie bags, hotel stays and related expenses. Nothing can or will ever sum up everything you’ll be spending on this sport. (But it’s totally worth it!)
- There is no “end.” Competitive cheer is a 365 day sport. Truly. When you finish the last competition, whether it’s a regional comp or Disney, it’s just marks the start of the new circle of cheer – tryouts. And it all begins again. Saying “I can’t, we have cheer” becomes a common mantra for as long as your athlete is in the sport.
- Cheer shoes, though rarely worn compared to street shoes, won’t last the season. I don’t know if they aren’t made well or they just get a tough work out, the uppers / mesh on my athlete’s shoes were splitting half way through the season, no matter what brand the gym bought. Cheer shoe covers helped save the soles and keep them clean though.
- Uniforms that show the belly are a big thing, you’ll have a hard time getting around that one unless you are at a conservative (think YMCA) gym. I wasn’t entirely comfortable with my pre-teen wearing that outfit, happy when they changed the rule to “senior teams only,” about the time my daughter was a senior level. But still, those uniforms aren’t made for every body type.
- The arenas and other cheer venues can be overly vigilant about bringing in food. It’s really crazy but I’ve been to places where they threw out my athlete’s bottled water. Seriously? You want us to pay $5 for bottled water? Not to mention the only food is greasy and fried. Ugh.
Learning how to pack healthy snacks for my cheerleader has been a major accomplishment.
- Saving seats is a BIG thing. Really BIG! Our last gym was the first to arrive just to try and block out an entire section. In all fairness, to get the best seats for the parents of about 250 athletes . . . you get the picture. If you’re new to this, be prepared to have someone watch your seat if you leave for the restroom because strangers will pick up your bags, blankets, jackets and move them over to take your seat. Kind of makes you wonder what happened to common courtesy.
- The judging doesn’t always make sense. I even got to the point that I downloaded the USASF & Varsity scoring sheets so I could try to “play along” but there were teams that dropped a stunt and still managed to win even though other teams had what looked like a near perfect routine. Fact is, the team can pull off a routine with zero deductions and not take the trophy. Two minutes and thirty seconds is all you get or wait until next year for the same competition.
- Learning to make “big hair” was my crowning glory. It took almost a full 9 years to get to the point that my athlete’s natural hair was higher than the bow and stayed there. Some parents choose to buy their high pony for upwards of $200. I went with sheer practice, and an awesome tutorial at NCA by a renowned stylist one year . . . wow. In reality, the judges don’t care about how their hair looks – they just want to see mad skills and awesome stunts done with perfection.
Looking back it’s been a long, amazing journey that I would do over in a heartbeat. If you’re just getting started you are in for a wild ride that will have you holding on tight just to keep up. But soon enough you’ll find your feet and start to feel like you’re part of the crowd. Enjoy it while it lasts, because these athletes grow up fast.