Taking cheerleading seriously

Hazel McCallion Senior Public School
Mississauga, Ontario

By Donna Cheng, Grade 8

Blond, female, beautiful, minimal clothing, usually the centre of attention. What does it remind you of? Could it be cheerleading? Well, we see them as beautiful blondes with lots of energy and no brains. They're just girls who can flip back and forth, showing off and distracting spectators and team-members by wearing the least amount of clothes possible, right?

Wrong. As a matter of fact, cheerleading has become a hard-core sport that requires strength, endurance, gymnastic ability, and guts. Why guts? Think again. Would you like to be standing on one of those human pyramids, knowing that there are no more than two people holding you up?

"Cheerleading isn't just about being pretty and popular," says 16-year-old Alanna Schwoebel, a member of New Jersey's number-one nationally-ranked squad in high-flying acrobatics.

"Cheerleading is about sportsmanship," says Janeen Gudger, another 16-year-old member of the squad. "I am on the basketball, cross country, and track teams and not one of those sports is as physically and mentally hard as cheerleading. You're constantly thinking about your form and teammates, in addition to your tumbling."

Talking about strength and endurance, you've got to give these girls credit. Coach Kim Gaskin works the team six days a week. Who would give up their Saturday for a training that includes mile-long runs, backhand springs, hundreds of pushups and dance marathons? The team works repetitively on what we call "the stunts".

If you think these girls have high self-esteem, you're right, but it's not because they're showoffs. The thing is: they need it. There's nothing more important than performing your acrobatic skills in front of a crowd. Besides, what's so bad about having high self-esteem? After all, it is better than having no self-esteem at all, which happens a lot to teenage girls who are often overly concerned about their appearance.

As for the clothing part, give them a break. Do you think they want to wear that in front of all the kids at school? I don't think so. They deserve a break after all they've gone through!

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