Cheerleading taught me more than I would have expected


photo courtesy of Freed Photography

Growing up, I loved to dance, do gymnastics, swim and play volleyball, yet I never stayed with a sport for more than a few years. That was, until I participated in JDS’ Cubs Club, which introduced me to a sport I had never tried out: cheerleading. The summer before second grade, I participated in a two-week cheerleading day camp at a local gym and completely fell in love. 

I participated in competitive all-star cheerleading for the next nine years and moved between three different gyms in that time. Each taught me about myself and life in general. 

The first gym where I cheered was the gym where I had attended summer camp, and it taught me how to work in a team. 

The second gym I joined taught me discipline and work ethic. Making mistakes was very discouraged and I was penalized for making them. During my four years at this gym, I became obsessed with winning, which I later learned wasn’t a healthy mindset. Yes, it is important to push yourself, however, there are times when you can take breaks.

The third gym I joined was the complete opposite of the second gym: It was very laid-back. My team did not win often, which was something I personally had to work on being O.K. with. I was finally given the chance of cheerleading without the added stress of being perfect. Yet, now that the coaches weren’t the ones putting the pressure on me, I was the one putting it on myself. In my mind, nothing I did was good enough. Every practice I would run myself ragged doing skills that I failed to land, over and over again. 

During my fourth year at the third gym, the owner of the gym pushed me to become more competitive, which meant harder practices and stricter coaching. The pressure I put on myself shot to extreme levels. I began to mess up simple skills that I knew I could do, and little by little I fell behind my teammates. Eventually, I was replaced by a more skillful athlete. At that point, I knew it was time to end my cheerleading career.  

Cheerleading taught things ranging from work ethic to self-discipline. Yet the most important lesson I learned from cheerleading didn’t actually come from my time in the sport. Today, almost a year after quitting, I’m beginning to realize the true talent that I had as a cheerleader. I regret not congratulating myself more on the amazing skills I could perform. Cheerleading taught me that my thoughts should not always be focused on critiques. Instead, I should praise myself for even the smallest accomplishments. You don’t always have to strive for perfection. Most of the time, you are perfect just the way you are. 

This story was featured in the Volume 36, Issue 4 edition of The Lion’s Tale, published on January 25, 2019.