An Insider’s Guide to Cheerleading

By Sofia Wuensch

Kristan Russell was standing in front of the club sign up table, holding a tryout form. She was thinking about signing up for her high school cheerleading squad, but wasn’t sure. Cheerleading sounded fun, but she didn’t know why she should do it. Unsure, she sat down on a bench and tried to come up with some benefits of joining the cheerleading squad. Frustrated, she decided to go to the Cheer Captain to see if she could explain some benefits to join the squad. Instead of telling her, the Captain directed her to a small section the school's library that contains books on many aspects of cheerleading. Kristan sat down with the book and her tryout form, and started to read on the benefits of being a cheerleader. Right away, Kristan saw something the caught her eye. The book said that more than half of cheerleaders have a GPA of 3.0 or higher. She was surprised, because the media usually portrayed cheerleaders as being dumb. Intrigued, she kept reading.

Physical Benefits

Heart and Lungs

Because cheerleading is such a demanding sport, it exercises many different parts of the body. Cheerleaders have to run, jump, and move around for long periods of time. The type of exercise is good for the heart and lungs, and can help reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, according to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention.

Muscles

Cheerleaders also have to lift and throw (typically) 100 pounds or over girls. This helps the bases and backspots build leg and arm muscles, which the Center of Disease Control and Prevention say can reduce the risk of osteoporosis and arthritis.


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The image shows a 'one man' stunt, where bases are required to use upper and lower body strength to lift the flyer into the air without a side base.

Stamnia

In addition to the cardiovascular and muscular benefits, cheerleading also builds stamina and endurance. According to Sarah Badger, a cheer and Dance writers and instructor, one main requirement for many All-Star teams is that members must be able to keep up the routine, and be able to perform it multiple times.

It is usually mandatory for cheerleaders to also be able to perform different jumps multiple times, and the team is required to practice jumps for long periods of time during practice. These experiences build up the cheerleaders stamina, so that they can work longer in other actives and sports, such as running or swimming.


Flexibility

Everyone has seen a cheerleader perform a complex tumbling( gymnastics) sequence in a movie at some point of their life. Although the behavior of cheerleaders are exaggerated in the movies, they do have some truth to them. Many cheerleaders are able to perform the complex tumbling you see in the movies, and some can perform even harder tumbling.

To be able to do this, the cheerleader must be flexible. This requires the cheerleader to stretch daily to stay this way. Being able to tumble and being flexible add more health benefits to the list of beneficial reasons to be a cheerleader. Being flexible can actually protects your heart from heart disease, according to a study published by the "American Journal of Physiology".


Academic Benefits

Grades

Aside from the physical benefits of cheerleading, cheerleading is beneficial in academics too. The involvement in school events and Many competitive team require that all members maintain an average of at least a B as a requirement to stay on the team. Because of the threat of being kicked off the team, 83% of cheerleaders maintain a grade average of B or higher, according to a study conducted by the NCA (National Cheerleading Association.) This requirement helps the cheerleaders stay motivated to study and to do well in school

College

As a result of the motivation for school work, 97% of cheerleaders plan on going to college, as found by the statistics website, Active Network. The B or higher average helps keep their grades up, so the after effect of this is that 82% of cheerleaders get accepted into the college of their choice.

According to a chart by MyEdu, a company that collects data from universities, shows that 90% of the cheerleaders at IVC ( Imperial Valley College, California) have the average grade of an A.

Time Management

Cheerleaders also learn time management because they need to be able to balance their school work and cheer practices. This skill can also help them in school for projects and homework in multiple classes. Cheer also help with focusing and stamina. A typical cheer routine is about two minutes long, but Cheerleaders must spend hours staying focused on the same routine, the same tumbling passes ( tumbling across the mat.)

Social Benefits

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The image above shows a “Suicide Basket Toss” This stunt requests the flyer to trust her bases and backspot to be able to ‘cartwheel ‘ through the air.

Source: AngelFire.Com

Building Trust


Cheerleaders are put into stunt groups, and need to be able to perform complicated stunts for routines. To be able to perform these stunts, the stunt group ( base, which support the flyer. A backspot, who stabilizes the flyer. And the flyer, who is the person who gets put into the air.) all need to be able to trust each other. If a flyer doesn’t have full trust and confidence in her bases, she won’t be stable in the air, and the stunt will fall.

Building trust among teammates not only helps on the mat, but off the mat too. Cheerleaders form a strong bond with their teammates, and become a second family to each other, says Valerie Ninemire, a cheer writer, coach, and has been a member of Cheerleading Coaches and Advisors (AACCA) and on the United States All Star Federation (USASF) Parent's Action Committee.

This bond carries over to their school life too. Cheerleaders on the team usually are good friends with their teammates, and many others says Valerie Ninemire. The team members have to be able to interact with the student body for fundraisers and games, and in result, are friends with many students, fitting the stereotype that cheerleaders are typically popular.


Mental Benefits

Mistakes

In a fast moving routine, you don’t have time to think. If you mess up, you need to brush it off and quickly move to the next stunt, tumbling pass or dance. You can’t dwell on the mistake that you made, you need to push it out of your head and focus on getting your flyer up and hitting you stunt. By doing this, you are building your ability to let go of mistakes. This helps you be able to recognize what you did wrong, and to dismiss it.


Confidence

Cheerleaders also need to have confidence to be able to get the crowd motivated, or pull off facials (exaggerated facial expressions) at a competition. Dr. Alison Arnold, a mental trainer, says that a confident athlete has a better chance at hitting their routine and winning than a non-confident athlete.

So how does cheerleading give members confidence? By performances and games. “ You conquer nerves and fight stage fright on a regular basis. This is another example of how doing difficult things gives you confidence—only, in this instance, you’re conquering your inner fears and doubts rather than physical limitations.” says Omnicheer, a website for cheerleaders on how to be better at their sport. By performing as a cheerleader, the team members are overcoming any self-doubts, and as a result, building confidence.

Positive Attitude

Cheerleading also helps build positive attitudes and habits, says Omnicheer. Cheerleading requires the team members to look positive and happy at all times during a game or a competition. Omnicheer explains that, “You become what you do daily,” and that being surrounded by other people who act positively will actually help you build a stronger foundation of confidence, and healthy lifestyle habits.


Negatives of Cheerleading

Sport Status

Like every sport, there are some risks and downsides to cheerleading. Without a trained coach, cheerleading can be extremely dangerous. Unfortunately, most high schools do not consider cheerleading as a sport. According to ESPN, “Twenty-two different states high school governing bodies recognize cheerleading as a varsity sport” that means the majority of states high schools do not consider cheer a sport. This means that the cheer coach can start the team's cheer season with going to a training class to learn the proper techniques and how to prevent injuries on the mat.


Injuries

Because of coach not getting proper training, more and more cheerleaders are getting hurt. In 2005, 28,000 cheerleaders were sent to the Emergency Room. This is a 600% increase of cheerleading related ER visits from 1998, explains Valorie Delp, an online magazine writer. As cheer stunts get harder, the injuries keep piling up, because coaches don’t know the ‘legal’ stunts and procedures for that cheer level.

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The image above shows cheerleader who was injured and continued to perform the motions to her school's fight song a she was wheeled out to the ambulance


Source: Cheerbook Wordpress

Kristen turned the page, and to her surprise, she had finished the book. Looking up at the clock, she saw that and hour had past since the Team Captain showed her the book. There was only thirty minutes left for team sign ups. Kristen tried to remember what she had read in the beginning of the book. Sh remembered that cheerleaders defeated many stereotypes, uch as that cheerleaders aren't smart. She also remembered that cheerleading helped the team members get a good workout in the different parts of their body. There was one thing she wasn't remembering though. Skimming the book again, she read that cheerleading builds confidence. This new information pushed her to join the team, so her hurried over to the Team Captain and handed in her completed form.

Resources


"Benefits of Cheerleading | Premier Athletics." Benefits of Cheerleading | Premier Athletics. Premier Athletics, n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2016.

Davis, Brenna. "Benefits to Dance & Cheerleading." Benefits to Dance & Cheerleading. Demand Media, n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2016.

Diranian, Susan. "Benefits of Cheerleading for Girls." LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 24 Oct. 2015. Web. 01 Mar. 2016.

Faber, Sheryl. "Why Is Cheerleading a Good Activity for Kids?" Everyday Life. Global Post, n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2016.

"The Health Benefits of Cheerleading." Tumblebees Ultimate Gym. Tumblebees, 18 Sept. 2013. Web. 02 Mar. 2016.

"MyEdu." MyEdu. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2016.

Niell, Kara. "The Benefits of Cheerleading » CheerDaily.com." CheerDaily.com. CheerDaily.com, 06 Feb. 2015. Web. 01 Mar. 2016.

"Top 10 Benefits of Cheerleading!" The Dancemania Blog. The Dancemania Blog, 27 Aug. 2011. Web. 01 Mar. 2016.