Off the Mat: My Cheer Story and Struggles

Celeste C., Blogger

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When people think of cheerleading they usually think short skirts, pom poms, and repetitive annoying chants. Cheer is so much more. It’s mentally and physically draining.

When I tried out in sixth grade I was so nervous. I remember waiting in the hallway for the list of girls who made the team. I read name after name after name until I saw mine. I remember the first practice I had as a cheerleader. I was struggling so much, trying to memorize the motions and the words. Even though it was my first year, it wasn’t my best or favorite season.

Seventh grade I took cheer a bit more seriously, but right after cheer tryouts I decided to do a back hand spring on a trampoline. I remember doing it and hearing two loud cracks. I’ve always had bad knees so I didn’t worry about it until the pain didn’t go away. I couldn’t walk and I couldn’t extend or bend my knee. When we went to the doctor she told me I had a Baker’s cyst and I would be out of cheer for a while.  Luckily I already knew the cheers from the previous year so not being able to cheer wasn’t the worst, but I was still devastated.

I went into school on crutches the next day and I had to do one of the scariest things I’ve ever had to do. I had to tell my coach I was out for a month. I walked into her room and as soon as she saw me I could tell it wasn’t going to be an easy conversation. I told her how it happened and how long I would be out. She told me I would have to miss the first game of the year. After school I went home determined to get off the crutches as soon as possible.  I tried walking, jumps, but I couldn’t do anything because I was in so much pain. Determined to not miss the first game I went back to the doctor and she said I was good enough to get off the crutches and cheer.

When I got back on the mat I was so happy but I knew I would have to work ten times harder to learn the new routine and get back into basing. Even after being injured for the beginning of the season and working super hard, it still wasn’t my strongest season.

The first day of eighth grade I was so excited to start the new cheer season but it wasn’t going to be that easy. Rumors went around and people said there wasn’t going to cheer. I denied this for as long as I could. I talked to the coach. She said she didn’t know if there was going to be a cheer season. I, of course, had to have what I wanted. My friends and I decided to make a petition with people who also wanted to do cheer. It worked.

The previous years at tryouts we only had to cut two, maybe three people, but this year we had the most amount of girls show up. This year was going to be my best year and it was going to show at the state championships. Even though I wanted this to be the perfect season, other people weren’t going to let that happen. Each day more and more girls quit and each day more and more drama started. This year’s season definitely showed both the mental and physical part in cheer.

Each day I came home with a new injury,. This included rolling my ankle for the hundredth time, getting kicked in the face, or my personal favorite getting kicked in the face and hurting my leg while diving to catch a girl.

Now the mental part is the worst part about cheer. If you’re a cheerleader you might be familiar with something called a mental block. Imagine having the desire to do something so badly, but the thinnest string of fear holds you back. I had two mental blocks this season, pulling my back handspring and basing a twist cradle. I remember coming home crying after practice, not only because I couldn’t move most of my body parts but because the weight of the dance and the chants and the stunts all weighed on me. My body couldn’t take it anymore.

The first competition is the first time all the teams at state see your routine. It’s the day you’re supposed to do your best and nothing less. That morning I woke up at 4:00 am throwing up. I was in so much pain. Absolutely nothing was going to stop me from going to the competition. I walked on the mat ready to perform and my mouth went dry, like someone shoved cotton balls in my mouth. I performed on all smiles and I saw that the judges were happy with the routine. Everything was hitting, but everything immediately turned into a blur. I became lost on the mat and didn’t know what to do, but quickly went back into place. It’s a minor mistake, but I saw first place slip out of my hands. Each step off the mat was another step I had to hold in my tears. As soon as we left the gym I couldn’t control the tears streaming down my face. I had messed up. I cost the team first place. I was the reason we went from second to last. We got the results and everything was about me getting lost. “Cheerleaders should know where they’re going,” was what every judge said. I wasn’t going to let this interfere with State Championships. The next day at practice was no joke. I worked the hardest I could and I made sure everybody else did, too.

State Championships are what many might consider their biggest fear. It was my beginning to worlds. My mind was jam-packed and I didn’t do my best at practice. I dropped stunts, didn’t jump, and talked back to everyone. I woke up at 5:00 am, did my hair, and thought about everything I needed to do to succeed. Practice went perfect and we did our prayer before we went on. “It’s just 3 minutes,” I said. That’s something I always say to myself before every competition. We went out on the mat and hit everything. Everything went perfectly. I got off the mat crying from happiness. I knew we did the best we could. Eighth out of fifteen was the best we’ve ever done. It was my last year and best year.

My goal as a cheerleader is to go to Worlds.

 

Whether it happens or not, someone will go. It will be someone who deserves it, someone who went through the same struggles and successes as me. Whether it’s from when they were born or just last week, all cheerleaders have a story.