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Go, Fight, Win! – Part 2: A look back at my cheerleading heritage

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Cheering = Love

Go here, in case you missed Part 1 : )

Ah. Look at those fresh (albeit, sweaty) faces! Here we are posing for a quick shot at one of the season's first JV football games in 1993. And no, cheering with acrylic nails was not the safest choice. But dang...I looked cool, right? I mean, I had the braces...the French braid...the gangly legs...

I loved cheerleading.  I loved getting to paint signs and surprise football players the night before the homecoming game with posters in their yard or decorated pillow cases that we conspired with their parents to place strategically in their rooms.

The excitement of seeing your team win a game they fought hard for was great.  Riding home on the bus after a tough loss where every player was told they weren’t allowed to talk as a consequence for losing (or playing poorly) was not.

We cheerleaders, of course, still managed to hold a lively conversation all the way home, packed with girly squeals and giggles, to the sheer annoyance of every player and coach around us.  Then I would get a lecture from my boyfriend about how much I embarrassed him.  That was probably very accurate, as we really didn’t seem to care that everyone around us was glum and pouty, but it was still a hard thing to hear when you’re sixteen and just trying to have fun with your friends.

Another hard thing about cheerleading is that the activity comes with a lot of built in stereotypes and prejudices.  The majority of the girls I cheered with weren’t dumb or ditzy.  They were honor-students who studied all the time and were able to juggle practice all throughout the summer, daily practice after school and then weekly, if not bi-weekly, games (4 games a week during basketball, as we cheered for both the girls and guys’ teams).  We juggled practices and tests and participated in our activity longer than any of the sports teams.

I’m not trying to say that we worked harder at conditioning or had a more challenging physical role than any sports players.  No way.  Those kids worked their tails off.  I’m just saying that scheduling-wise, if you were a cheerleader, it was a year-long commitment and a dominate part of your life.

Cheering for football meant Saturday mornings and afternoons were spent on the field.  If it was a home game, then we would all go to the pizza place and watch a video of the entire game.  Basically we watched the game two times in a row.  By 5pm, football time was over and you could go enjoy what was left of your weekend and homework, depending on whether or not the team was cranky from a loss or cheerful after a win.

Girls vs. Girls

Cheering for the girls’ volleyball games or girls’ basketball team was always tricky.  Oftentimes your pals were the ones playing and it was nice to cheer them on, but most of the time, you couldn’t ignore the overwhelming feeling that most of the Lady Eagles didn’t want you there cheering at all.

We often didn’t know all the rules of volleyball, and so we’d cheer at the wrong time, and usually we’d sit down and cheer from the stands versus standing up for a guy’s sport.  I have no idea when the sit-down trend started, but it wasn’t anything new when we got around to cheering.  We were simply following the old standard (or at least what we perceived as the old way of doing things).

I can see how the girls probably felt a little jipped by our lack of effort, but the rivalry (often unspoken to our faces, but every now and then you’d catch a snippy remark) made for some tense moments.

If you were feeling cranky and wanted to start something, all a cheerleader needed to do was wear a shirt that announced “Cheerleading is a Sport!” or “Cheerleaders are so awesome cause we do this exhaustive list of rad things!” and you’d be pissing off players in no time.

What’s a bummer is that often times, we never even got a say in what t-shirt was going to be purchased.  I think the most offensive ones were picked out by our coaches.

Yes.  As a private school cheerleader, we were, pretty much, ALL boy-crazy girls who really wanted to be sure we looked cute with our curly pony tails and bouncy skirts.  But we were also very driven to be supportive and encouraging.  I remember girls crying after a loss of a close game.  Yelling out genuine encouragement may seem easy to fake, but it wasn’t.  We really did care for the players and we took our role as encouragers very seriously.

Remember when Bernie got to play in the basketball game against Mammoth?  (Sorry.  I realize many of you were not there, but stay with me.) Bernie was the brightest kid in our class and could sport a lean pair of khaki pants and a tucked in polo shirt like no one else I’ve ever known.  He relished a good chemistry debate and although he wasn’t very tall or what you would call a “natural athlete”, he was on the JV boys’ basketball team – usually their bench, to be exact.

But Bernie got to play in an away game that was 8 hours away (by slow bus or loaded up cheer-van) in Mammoth and made a great runaway 2-point lay-up.  The crowd went WILD! (Not a very large crowd, but still a WILD one!)  It was enough excitement to encourage one enthusiastic fan to carve “Bernie Scored in Mammoth” into a desk back at the school chemistry lab, although I think the meaning got twisted up a little ; )

To this day, I still love cheering people on.  At my kids’ little league games, I am often cheering on both my kid’s team, as well as their opponent.  At least now, they are all little and it doesn’t matter, but we’ll see if I garner any dirty looks as they get older.

In my dreams, I am often getting ready for cheer tryouts and I’m worried because I don’t know the routine yet, or I’m in my uniform and getting ready to start the half-time cheers.  But then again, in my dreams I am pretty much stuck in my high school years, so it’s only natural that cheering would factor into that too.  For all you psychology majors out there, feel free to psycho-analyze that dream pattern for me, will ya?

I hope that my love of cheering and an encouraging spirit (S-P-I-R-I-T!) stick with me for a long time, despite all the negative connotations that may come with the sassiness, the outfits, or the assumed shallowness of your typical cheerleader.

I Thessalonians 5:11 (one of my favorites):

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up,

just as in fact you are doing.

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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. Most of my “I’m back in high school dreams” have something to do with showing up to school without my steel-toed boots on. Horrifying.

    Reply

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