7 Things I Wish I Knew Before Becoming a Cheerleader
It might seem like cheerleading is all about cute outfits and Crest smiles–but anyone actually on the squad will tell you it's no easy feat.
Sure, some perks are getting to wear your uniform to school on game days and being front and center for all the school matches, but it's the behind-the-scenes practice that makes a stellar squad.
I was a cheerleader for six years–I did Pop Warner cheer in 7th and 8th grade, and then went on to be a high school cheerleader, as both JV and varsity captain. I was also a cheer instructor for third and fourth grade Pop Warner cheerleaders, so believe me. I've had my fair share of cheer experience.
But as a dancer and figure skater prior to starting cheer, I really knew nothing about the sport. Here are a few things I wish I had known before I became a cheerleader.
1. It's Not Just About Football Season
I wanted to start cheerleading prior to high school so I would have an advantage at making the high school squad. Cheerleading seemed like such a glamorous thing to be apart of—especially the idea of cheering on all the cute football players! I quickly learned that a serious cheer team is about much more than football season. Yes, you'll spend the summer going over your sideline cheers for football (and, in the case of my school: soccer, tennis, baseball, water polo and basketball, because they made us cheer for every sport), but you'll spend a majority of the school year practicing for pep rallies and competitions and those take work.
2. It's Harder Than It Looks
I had low expectations for cheer because of my dance and ice skating background. By 7th grade, I was already a pointe ballerina, a lover of lyrical and could also nail double-jumps on the ice. My strong athletic background did give me an advantage, but oh, man, cheerleading is much tougher than it looks! I wasn't a gymnast before, so I had to learn the basics and then master some tougher tricks to make the high school team. And don't even get me started on stunts, they look so much easier than they are!
3. You'll Probably Have to Show Your Midriff
I struggled with body image a lot growing up, especially since a handful of girls and guys in my fifth grade class nicknamed me Butterball. Note: I wasn't even close to fat, I just had super chubby cheeks! That aside, by the time I started cheer I thinned-out majorly, but still dealt with many body issues lingering from my preteens. That said, I wasn't quite prepared to flaunt my midriff, even though it looked great on me. I had to get cozy fast, because not only was that my uniform, I also had to do things like tumble jump and bend in said midriff, in front of the whole school!
4. Hairspray Will Be Your Bestie
I still will never look at hairspray the same way again. Every night before a huge cheer competition or pep rally, the squad would meet for a hair-curling party, where we'd secure our ponytails with foam rollers equipped with enough Aqua Net hairspray to freeze you in your tracks. It's not good for your hair, and I would rethink that if there was a do-over.
5. Being a Base Doesn't Mean You're Fat
I 'm petite—entering high school, I was about 5'3″ and 85 lbs., making me a very late bloomer. I was instantly made a flyer without so much as a choice because of my size. That said, it was always talked about how "fat girls" were bases, and that's simply not true. Yes, the smallest girls tend to fly because they're easy to lift, but just because they're small does not mean a base is big or fat. And TBH, bases do most of the work! The flyer's job is to remain tight, hold everything in and hit the pose.
6. Being a Flyer Doesn't Mean You're Star of the Show
I honestly didn't like being a flyer. I learned quickly that I much prefer to have control, and don't like being thrown in the air. On ice, no problem—because I had the control. While it may feel like flyers are the stars of the show, everyone on the team knows it's the stunt group as a whole that makes an amazing stunt.
7. You'll Mess Up at Least Once
I'm a perfectionist by nature. I'm an Aries sun sign with Virgo rising, so that means I need to win, and I need to do it perfectly. This was a hard one for me since my prior athletic experience was all with individual sports, which is honestly where I excel.
With cheerleading, you'll mess up, and you'll probably do it in front of your entire school at some point like I did. Whether it's falling out of a stunt, messing up a move, or, in my personal case, fall flat on your face while attempting your first back handspring in public at your Freshman year pep rally—things will go wrong. This taught me a valuable life lesson early on, because life is all about falling down and picking yourself back up.
Still up for joining the squad? HERE are the best IG captions for all your cheer pics!