By: KIM VAN METER
I’m a cheer mom.
What does that mean?
Well, the moment you read that, your mind conjured some kind of image because the word “cheer” seems to have that power.
But here’s a truth bomb for you — chances are … what you think you know … is wrong.
Just as everyone else who thinks they know cheerleading but have never actually been involved with the sport.
Before my daughter became involved with the sport, I was guilty of a lot of judgmental ideas, based solely on my own narrow lens.
See if you recognize a few:
· Cheerleading isn’t a sport.
· Cheerleading is just a bunch of snotty, popular girls bouncing around.
· Anyone can do it.
· Cheerleaders aren’t smart.
I’m embarrassed to say the list is long.
However, I was served a nice, fat slice of humble pie the first time I took on the role of “Cheer Coach.”
I fell into the position to help a friend out. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it. I hadn’t cheered in high school (I was a theater girl) but I had friends who’d cheered so I thought, “Sure, why not? How hard could it be?’”
I don’t want to be accused of being melodramatic but that season of coaching changed my life.
I went from lukewarm cheer mom to rabid cheer-is-life cheer coach and now I’m both enthusiastic cheer mom and proud cheer coach.
The reason for the change in attitude is simple, yet complex and personal.
The squad I coached as rookies are heading into their varsity year with the Oakdale Stampede.
Those girls recently took JAMZ National Champions during the competition season. I ugly cried with pride and joy when they took that stage because I knew how hard they’d worked, how far they’d come.
On a personal note, sometimes seeing my girls at the end of day was the only thing that pushed me to fight my depression. They encouraged me to be stronger than I felt. They were my life-line.
Here’s what you don’t know about cheerleaders – they are ninja warriors.
Let me explain.
First, they are serious athletes.
The work-outs they do are both grueling and exhaustive. Picture if CrossFit, yoga, and triathlon training came together and made a scary new hybrid training program and you’d have an inkling of what these athletes endure to ensure they are limber, strong and capable of throwing and catching their squad.
Oh, and most of them are scholars, as well, so there goes the ‘dumb cheerleader’ stereotype.
Second, they are braver than you think.
Imagine being thrown in the air with nothing beneath you but the trust in your squad and a fervent prayer that you won’t land on the turf.
But cheerleaders continue to rise.
They wipe their eyes and say, “Let’s try again.”
I’ve watched cheerleaders sacrifice their bodies, pushing through the pain of a ripped shoulder, smile in place, so that the show could go on.
Then and only then when the show was over, collapse in agony.
I’ve seen cheerleaders endure ridicule from those who are ignorant and dismissive only to smile and continue to do their job.
Sure, there will always be the stereotypical mean girl wearing the uniform but being a mean person has nothing to do with the sport they play.
Frankly, the meanest person I ever met in high school played volleyball but I don’t paint every volleyball player as a terrible person because of the experience.
Third, they make difficult stunts look easy.
And trust me, they are not.
For each successful throw, there are countless that ended with someone getting kicked in the face, eating mat, or landing hard enough to jostle fillings.
My daughter has come home wearing bruises that would’ve made the pre-cheer mom in me faint.
Now, I just high-five my girl for being one tough cookie and say, “Wear it with pride, baby girl. That just means you came to do work.”
Like I said, ninjas.
So, yeah, I’m that cheer mom/cheer coach who is yelling the loudest, wearing the bling, eyes shining with pride, and teeth bared to anyone who dares to mutter any of the stereotypes I mentioned within earshot.
For the parent who has said, “My daughter will never cheer …” ask yourself, are you basing your opinion on what you think you know about this particular sport and would you similarly judge (insert sport of choice)?
If not, put on a pair of Nike Pros, lace up your Infinity’s, and get ready to educate yourself because stereotypes, in this day and age, are just … so 2000-and-late.
Kim Van Meter is a former staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She continues to contribute occasional columns.