Varsity Cheer: It’s More Than Bows and PomPoms
November 4, 2016
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Dos Pueblos’ Varsity Cheerleaders have not had a Friday to themselves since the school year started. They have adopted the routines necessary for cheer perfection- eating whole grain energy bars instead of hamburgers, putting phones aside to stretch before bed, and so much more.
Cheer was officially labeled a Californian sport in the fall of 2015; however the majority of outsiders continue to view cheerleading as an activity that relies on looks and pep, rather than dedication and effort. The girls on the Varsity Cheer team here at Dos Pueblos commit almost all their free time to the team and spend hours conditioning, stunting, and completing routines.
“Sometimes the feeling that what you’re doing is unappreciated is enough to make you want to quit, but you really just have to weigh the pros and cons,” said junior and Varsity Cheerleader, Amanda Caraco. “For me, the reward of everything we get to do is a reminder of why I chose to be a part of cheer in the first place.”
Most cheerleaders jump to their feet when someone sparks the controversial question, “Is cheer a sport?,” but for the team at DP, it is less about the label and more about being recognized.
“It doesn’t bother me too much when I hear other athletes say ‘cheer isn’t a sport.’ I’m not going to try to change their opinion,” said Caraco. “What does get to me is hearing students who are convinced that because all they see is our halftime routine, that’s all we do.”
Cheer relies heavily on specific formations, meaning if one girl is not with the team, the entire routine is thrown off. Missing a practice also means falling behind in choreography, which makes being performance-ready nearly impossible.
“We memorize so many cheers, sidelines, dances, and stunt routines,” junior Haley Hughes said. “Memorizing can definitely be a hard part, but nailing our performances, supporting our school so positively, and cheering on our sports teams is rewarding.”
Memorizing is not the only distinct skill cheerleaders must possess- there are many general athletic abilities needed when cheering that are not typically necessary for an average sport.
“The strength mixed with flexibility- to be able to dance and then a few seconds later, lift a person in the air and catch them- that’s something that not many athletes have the innate ability to do,” cheer coach Kourtnie Cruz said. “To create spirit in the crowd is pretty challenging as well.”
For the Varsity girls, cheer does not end when practice does.
“I do think there’s a conception that cheerleaders don’t work as hard as other athletes,” said Cruz. “Even though it isn’t competitive, the girls spend so much time practicing and there’s a lot of mental work that’s put into it.”
Unfortunately, the lack of recognition is not the only offense cheerleaders are forced to deal with. Grace Salsido joined the cheer family her sophomore year, even after hearing the absence of respect present when some students would discuss the cheer teams.
“One of the most prevalent stereotypes I saw amongst students and generally in our culture was how terribly sexualized cheerleaders are,” Salsido said. “Witnessing all these things did make me a little skeptical about trying out, but I decided I didn’t care what people thought about me, especially when it wasn’t true.”
The girls on cheer agree that social labels are detrimental to feeling confident and happy, particularly when performing.
“Typical stereotypes of cheerleaders in society include being popular, pretty, dumb, and narcissistic,” Caraco said, “In reality, a cheer team is often made up of high achievers with diverse looks, personalities, and backgrounds.”
The Varsity Cheerleaders and Songleaders face extreme stressors and dedicate themselves, physically and mentally to their craft. While they handle the pressures with grace, there is much more going on than what meets the eye.
“When I explain to my friends how tired I am from cheer they connect the work I do directly to what they see me perform,” said Caraco. “For other sports, the game is just a portion of being an athlete, it’s the same with us and our performances, and a lot of my peers don’t understand that.”
While it can be hard at times, DP Cheerleaders stay on the team because they love being a part of something so special. The teammates, the opportunities, and the indescribable adrenaline felt before a performance makes the whole experience worthwhile, according to Caraco.
So as football season continues, remember the girls on the sidelines are more than just their uniform, and the hours of practice behind a 3 minute routine deserves a roar that matches the volume in the stadium after any touchdown, goal, or basket.