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Go, Fight, Win! – Part 1: A look back at my cheerleading heritage

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Oh, ho ho!  I can’t wait to write this post!  I was so sure I had written it already, but after carefully scanning all nineteen, count them, NINETEEN of my previous blog posts, I could not find any trace of this post.  Weird!

Well, just in case I missed it in my research, sorry for any duplicate info. You could always just skip this post and go spend some more time on Pinterest.  That’s cool.

Side note: If you are a friend who reads my blog, please mention that to me within the earlier parts of a conversation we are having.  I feel strange when people ask me, “How’s it going?” and then I tell them, and then they reply, “Oh yeah, I saw that on Facebook.” Or “I saw you wrote a blog on that.” Sometimes, I feel like I am already telling you something you already read about, and feel like an idiot who is repeating myself.  Moving on…

Wow! Thanks, guys! It's just what I've always wanted! (Side note: Doesn't Aaron look so jazzed about this gift idea?)

My closet is a wonderful treasure trove of memories and items that will seem really strange to my kids when I am long gone and they are divvying up my stuff.  Remember, kids, those old journals are for Auntie Emma.  I have already clued in your dad, but he (or anyone, really) is free to read through them before she claims them.

Some of the fascinating gems in my closet from the past are:

– Both of my positive pregnancy tests from learning about Baby 1 and Baby 2.  I tossed the dozens and dozens of torturous negative tests that I had earned over the previous baby years.  Stupid bummer tests.  No one likes you!

–   A photo-button I received as a joint birthday gift from my friends, Brad and Aaron.  I can proudly say that I never actually wore it, although my obsession with those two probably could have convinced me that sacrificing fashion in order to show my appreciation for their gift was actually a good-friend thing to do.

– A box of 3.5’’ floppy disks of old college reports

– My senior year pom-poms from cheerleading (Awwwwhhhh yeah!)

These closet items have been with me for a while and are a blast to sort through and inspire all sorts of memories.  Last night I also came across my autographed spatula from Weird Al and all my creative writing assignments for sophomore year, including the epic “Time Traveler” script.

But today I’m going to focus on some old cheerleading history, so if I lose a few of you, don’t worry, I won’t dwell on this for too long.  Well, this will probably end up being a two-parter, but I’ve got a pretty long history on the topic so, hang in there!

Ready?  OK!                                                                                                                

I started my 9 year relationship with cheerleading when I was 8 and got signed up to cheer for a Pop Warner football team, the Bengals.  My awesome cheerleading skirt was the perfect default Halloween costume with its bright orange and black pleats.

At first they required the oh-so-supportive white Keds as the uniform shoe of choice, but then they changed their minds and told me I needed black.  Have no fear!  I’m not sure which parent convinced me that returning the shoes was a hassle.  Why not just color the canvas beauties black with a magic marker?  Sounds good to me!  I was the only girl on the squad with ugly, stripy-grey shoes.

I was not well-liked by my fellow Bengal-girls, even though I could do a full-split during the “D-O-W-N and that’s the way to get DOWN!” cheer.  I was the youngest on the squad and still liked telling people that my real dad was PeeWee Herman.  (A joke my dad told me that I latched onto, since PeeWee’s Playhouse was my all-time favorite show to watch before Saturday morning gymnastics.)

After Pop Warner cheering, I made my way to the school-circuit and joined a new program called “Junior Eagles” which was comprised of 1st graders – 6th graders.  Our skirts were handmade but there was a private school dress code to follow.

The majesty of a cheerleading skirt has always had a strange sort of hold on me.  I love the pleats, the strange fabric and the striped trim.  Fly-away skirts (like the ones they wear on Glee) hadn’t been invented yet, and I never wore my cheerleading uniform to school 5 days a week like they do on that show.  Only on game days, ladies!  Now get back to focusing on Will Shuster, please.  If it hadn’t been for cheerleading, I probably would have stumbled toward tennis.  I would do anything to get myself into a cute outfit.

My mom labored over those tricky blue and yellow pleats for my Junior Eagles skirt for a long time, and then when I showed up to my first game, I realized that I was the only kid who’s mom had actually paid attention to the darn dress code and had a skirt no higher than 2 inches above my knees.  All the other little girls looked way more adorable and cheerleader-like in their shorty-short skirts.  I took a mental note for later…

Back in the golden days of BCHS, we had a huge (Meaning: Not 8-man team like when I was in high school) football team who got to play night games across the street from our school at the local community college.  Shout out to AV College!  That poor college got such a bad rap as being the school for the losers because if you went there, you were simply going to school across the street from your old high school versus leaving town for a university like “normal” people!  (Yes.  We were all just a tad bit stuck up, even as children.)  There is absolutely nothing wrong with going to AVC.  Carry on.

When I was a Junior Eagle, our number one job was to perform the half-time show for the crowd.  I think the varsity squad that cheered during the game, led us or at least told us where to go and where to stand.  We were stinkin’ adorable!  “Hot-Hot-Hot!  We give it all we got!”  We would practice during the week and get to be little cheerleaders for about 5 minutes.  It was heavenly!

7th grade brought the opportunity to be on a real squad with tryouts and everything!  There was a general consensus that we hated our uniforms, our ugly Asics cheer shoes and we all kinda freaked out when Melanie cut off her beautiful long hair in favor of an adorable pixie cut.  How could she wear the required uniform hair-bow now?  Argh!  The tragedies of 11 year old cheering…

Being Cut Sucks

8th grade brought out the dark side of cheering at my school, which ended up making an impression on the way tryouts were handled, at least until we all graduated.  The general feeling among us girls was that if you were on the squad the previous year, you’d be an automatic-in for the next year.  But that was not the case.  I was cut from the 8th grade squad, although lots of new girls, who had never cheered before, made it.

Me?  Cut?  Even after all my years (ha ha!) of cheerleading experience?  It was pretty embarrassing and really hard for a 12 year old to understand that she had been good enough the year before, but now that she had experience and knew all the cheers, there were other girls who knew absolutely zero cheers and nothing about  how to properly shout without losing your voice and where to stand so you don’t get in the referee’s way, who were suddenly better than you.

We attempted to form a small band of excommunicated cheerleaders into the ragtag ‘Bethel Dance Squad’.  This may have looked good on paper and was the only option to keep me in a polyester pleated skirt, but then again, we went to a private school and we weren’t allowed to dance, so….yeah….that about sums up that chapter in my unfortunate cheerleading history.

When we all tried out again after 8th grade and had a much more intense training process.  We had closed-gym tryouts in front of a panel of judges (who were much kinder than Sue Sylvester) and then we had to do a group performance in front of the whole school in the gym at lunch.

No one was cut this go-round, but basically, if you were the cream of the crop, you made it to the varsity squad; if you were ok (or worse!) you were put on the JV squad.

I made the JV squad.

This bummed me out for obvious reasons, but two of my dearest friends, Jaime and Monica, had made the varsity squad and I felt very left behind.  But at least being on the JV squad, I was able to cheer for my classmates (who am I kidding, I simply cared about cheering about my obsess-crush), versus some scary upper-classmen who I shied away from.

Back then, we also tried juggling cheer competitions, which was basically good at teaching us all humility.  I also learned that I still had not conquered my life-long bout with motion sickness and threw up in my coach’s van (that he had borrowed?) onto Becky’s pillow, only 2 minutes from my house.  I’m still very sorry about that whole deal, guys.

High School = More Cheering, a Guy Likes Me Back, and Better Uniforms

Sophomore year and junior year brought me up to varsity cheering (a lot of girls had graduated by then or left for different high schools) and I even made co-captain in 11th grade.  At this point I was cheering for my new boyfriend and things were pretty stellar.

By my junior year, I had mastered the skirt height trick.  You see, even though our normal school dress code stated that if you wore a skirt or dress, it could be no shorter than 2’’ above your knees, if you were a cheerleader, your skirt could be shorter.  They’d have us stand up straight with our arms down by our side.  Then they would measure how long it was from our waist to the tips of our fingers.

The skirt height trick was when the coach went down to measure to the tips of your fingers; you’d shrug up your shoulders a little bit, and therefore, earn a much less dowdy uniform.  See?  I told you I had taken notes from 3rd grade!

In my mind, shorter cheer skirts = way cute.  I would probably agree with that statement now, and I am still opposed to the bloomers with logos or the words “Go Bulldogs!” printed on the booty.  That’s just crass.  I do have some standards!

For our senior year, they got wise and outlawed the ‘wear your cheer skirt to school on game days’ law.  Now we had to wear these band-like pants with our cheerleading shells, which is what we called the top part of the uniform, even though you could not hear the ocean when you pulled it on over your head.

These pants were actually crazy-comfy, and made from the same polyester that the skirts were.  We were also much warmer on those 20 degree mornings!  Brr!

Wearing your cheerleading uniform to school was helpful when it came to not worrying about what you were going to wear twice a week (basketball season) but made it tricky for our planet, since we were doing laundry constantly.

Sometimes you’d forget to throw it in the wash Wednesday night after wearing it all day on Tuesday, and then on Thursday, you’d simply try to hair-dryer iron the pleats or body spray your way out of the stinky sweat smell issue.  It wasn’t pretty.

My senior year gave me the opportunity to be the varsity cheer captain, which actually, was a good fit for me, since I was (am) naturally very bossy.  I got to make up moves for cheer dances, help teach new cheers (I still know the moves to the 7th grade piece I did for “Be Aggressive”) and it was my God-given right / duty to yell “Eagles, Ready?” before a cheer, and “Hit It!” before a chant.  And yes, there is a difference that I will not bore you with today.

Come on back for more cheer history in Part 2!

About Jenny Z

I love to overuse italics, misplaced hyphens and internal dialogue when I write about my usual favorite topic, myself.

One response »

  1. Pingback: Shine On « jennysblogorama

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