It Isn’t Always About the Trophy

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Let’s face it, it’s a lot of fun to hoist a big, shiny trophy with your cheer teammates. But, as great as they are, trophies aren’t–or shouldn’t be–the only reward you get from cheerleading.

Here are just a few of the many benefits of being a member of a cheer team:

Gaining Poise and Self-confidence

Poise is defined as having a dignified, composed, self-confident manner. As a cheerleader, you learn how to maintain a sense of dignity and composure even as people all around your are screaming wildly. If you have a tendency to be shy, cheerleading will help you get past it. Many studies have shown that most people fear speaking in front of a crowd. But after you’ve stood and cheered in front of hundreds or even thousands of people a few dozen times, it isn’t nearly as scary as it once seemed!

Attaining New Skills through Hard Work

Cheerleading teaches the value of hard work in attaining new skills and reaching goals. Whether it’s a new tumbling pass, a difficult stunt or pyramid sequence, or a particularly tricky section of choreography, some of the most rewarding moments of your cheer career come when you master a new skill, and the only way to gain that mastery is through just plain hard work.

Making and Strengthening Friendships

The friendships that you make through cheer can last a lifetime. My daughter and her girlfriend Alex cheered together for one year, Freshman year in high school, before Alex’s family had to move to another city. They are now in the mid-20s, and haven’t seen one another in almost a dozen years, although they’ve kept in touch on social media. This past year, my daughter was going through a hard time. One day, the most gorgeous bouquet of yellow roses arrived on our doorstep–they were from Alex. We were both touched and moved that after all these years, the friendship that they had started so many years ago was still going strong.

And it isn’t only teammates that can become lifelong friends. Many of my former cheerleaders still keep in touch via email and texting, and a lot of them come back frequently to visit or help out with my current team. I’m always glad to see and hear from them, and I’m proud to say that many of them have gone on to cheer on high school, all-star, and college cheer teams.

Learning Good Sportsmanship

Sportsmanship is the art of winning–and losing–with grace and dignity. Through cheerleading, you learn–or should learn–good sportsmanship. When you give the members of a visiting cheer team a friendly greeting, congratulate a member of an opposing team on a well-played game, express admiration for a beautifully performed competitive cheer routine, or root for a team member who may not be the greatest but who is trying his or her very best, you are demonstrating good sportsmanship.

Developing a Sense of Responsibility

When you’re a member of a cheer team, your teammates and coaches depend on you. If you decide to skip practice because you’ve procrastinated for weeks and now you have a big homework project due the next morning, or you want to go see that new movie with your friends, or you’re just feeling a little tired, you hurt your entire team. Whether it’s a stunt that can’t be practiced full-out, a pyramid that can’t connect completely, or even just a gap in a dance formation, your teammates are affected by your absence. And when you do return, there’s at least one person who has to give up a part of their valuable practice time to teach you what you missed. Being a responsible cheerleader means that you show consideration towards the people that depend on you and demonstrate that you are trustworthy.

Having Fun

When I hand out the evaluation forms for the cheer camps that I run, my first question is always, “Did you have fun?” (I’m pleased to say that so far, the answer has always been a resounding, “Yes!”) I have seen cheerleaders at competitions who were so stressed out that they actually cried or even threw up. Is it just me, or does that not seem like fun to you, either? Since the whole point of our sport is to encourage our teams and our fans to have fun, I think it’s really important that we remember why we love our sport so much–because, win or lose, when it’s done right, it’s just plain fun!

These are just a few of the benefits of cheerleading. So the next time someone asks you what you’ve learned from cheerleading, now you know what to tell them!

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Marge Packman

Marge was a member of her high school pom team and has coached youth and school cheer for over 17 years. She has a BA in English from Northern Illinois University (Go, Huskies!). After graduation she joined the Peace Corps, met her husband, and moved to The OC. After cheer practice, you can find her watching football with her son or perusing the scrapbooking aisles with her daughter.