I didn’t grow up surrounded by a world of cheerleading. I was the only girl, both my brothers and my dad played baseball. I grew up at a ballpark…literally! And when my first child was a boy, as soon as he was old enough, there was a bat in his hand. Not just him, but my two girls that followed played baseball as well. But since my second child was a girl, I put her in cheerleading as well, something that was pretty foreign to me. Her younger sister started cheerleading at the young age of three, but my oldest daughter lost interest quickly. I have four daughters, and out of four, three of them are cheerleaders. After being a Cheer Mom for the past 19 years, I have seen my share of problems facing cheerleaders today.
Before it was my kid cheering, I didn’t realize the time and dedication that goes into being a cheerleader. It’s not just about being cute in a skirt, or wearing the biggest bow…it’s hard work! It consumes every month out of every year! For example, try outs are in April. Fundraising starts in May, as well as weekly practices that run throughout the summer. And don’t even THINK about planning ahead, by buying plane tickets for a vacation….what if it interferes with cheerleading!?! (I just CAN’T miss mom!) There are short vacations during the summer, usually a week here or there, only to start up practices 3 days a week, PLUS football games on Fridays, and don’t forget, tumbling practice somewhere in between!
And that is just Football season! Once it’s finished, they start competition season. Ask any cheerleader and they will tell you, THIS is their time to shine! They work all year to compete on weekends at different competitions. But don’t forget, it’s Basketball season as well! So they have to cheer at those games too! The last competition is in January, but they continue cheering for Basketball through February. That gives them one month and two weeks to rest and prepare for the next tryout in April!
Which brings me to why I am posting this. Our cheerleaders work hard. The coaches expect them to be at every practice and every game, no matter what. Our coaches work almost year round to prepare for the upcoming season and beyond. Our school expects the cheerleaders to be at every Football game, and every basketball game. I get it….they are cheerleaders and they should be there, but where is the support for them when it’s their time to shine? The parents have to fundraise to get money together for competition fees, hotels, transportation, and food…and if there isn’t enough raised, the parents are the ones that have to pay for it! We didn’t get a bus to go to Dallas to compete at Nationals, the parents paid airfare and for any amount left we didn’t have. We didn’t get the support other sports in the school get. Why? Because they are Just Cheerleaders! I am all for school spirit and supporting ALL of the athletes, but when is someone at the school going to realize, cheerleaders are athletes too!
We spent two and a half years in Washington when my husband received orders there. Not one time did I pay a competition fee. The school support was phenomenal for ALL of the sports. My daughter cheered not only for Football and Basketball, but for Wrestling, Baseball, Cross country, Track, and Swimming. They showed school spirit for everyone, no matter what! The football and basketball game concession stands had a “lottery”. Every sport was in a lottery for each game, and whatever sport was drawn got the proceeds for that game, and was in charge of working it. It created unity for all of the sports! No one sport was more important than the other.
It’s time for changes to be made. It’s time to recognize each sport, it’s members and coaches for their hard work they put in. It’s time for everyone to come together and make a difference for all of the kids, not just YOUR kid! I never dreamed I would be a cheer mom, but here I am, 19 years later, and I wouldn’t change it for the world!