Who Me, a Cheerleader? How I Joined the Most Unlikely Sport

by omni

The following is a wonderful article written by Lisa L. Fan, whose prior opinions about cheerleading changed when she joined her school’s team. We love her story and what she learned from cheerleading. Lisa proves that cheerleading can have an affect on your future career and life beyond cheer! Read her wonderful story, which was originally published on Yahoo! Voices. I, like many people, have not always had the rosiest perception of cheerleading. From Bring It On to Glee, no other sport has induced as polarizing a spectrum of opinions as cheerleading. So how did I become involved with this sport when my friends and family would be the first to say I am not the “cheerleader type”? It was the start of my senior year at the of Chicago when I started crafting what would become quite an ambitious to-do list of sorts before graduation. Among the many items in mind, the agenda shamelessly ranged from enrolling in a Shakespearean drama course to experiencing the drunken madness of frat parties to the fullest. It was senior year, the #YOLO mentality had just started becoming a staple in youth culture, and I had certainly planned mine to be one without any reservations. Of all the YOLO-worthy experiences I had anticipated, however, becoming a cheerleader had never been part of the plan. Yet two months later on a chilly November evening, I found myself decked out in uniform, pom poms in hand, and ready to cheer on my school’s basketball team. I must admit cheerleading should have been the last sport I could ever imagine myself a part of. While I felt comfortable giving a speech in front of an audience or presenting my ideas in class, cheerleading demanded a type of overt confidence and unrestrained self-assurance that intimidated me. Having learned gymnastics and ballet, it was not that I was technically unprepared for the physical demands of the sport. Rather it was the prospect of stepping into a territory that seemed so far from my comfort zone that gave me pause. My biggest hurdle, however, stemmed from the tenacity of my own reservations about joining the cheerleading culture simply because I believed I did not fit the bill of a cheerleader. It was during a conversation with a classmate on the cheerleading squad when a simple question allowed my reservations to fall by the wayside. “Would you be interested in joining the squad, Lisa?” Looking back, I could have said no; I could have given a noncommittal response. Instead I replied, “Yes.” As I walked into my first practice feeling tentative about my decision, I wondered whether I was right to take on this challenge. I wondered what the rest of the squad would think of its newest member. That was when I realized my self-doubts were becoming my biggest adversary, and only by shedding those notions would I be able to give myself a fair chance to succeed as a cheerleader. Over the course of the next several weeks, I learned how to perform pyramids and stunts, memorized catchy cheers, and juggled the tricky coordination of enunciating those cheers to the beat. My confidence grew as I learned the core techniques and with it, my initially misplaced concerns about whether I even owned a rightful place in the sport gradually disappeared. Yet mastering the technical elements also led me to the realization that technical competence was not sufficient. Cheerleading demanded a sincerity of heart, and my progress slowly led me to learn how to cultivate that spirit for myself. On that chilly November evening, the court was buzzing with a surprisingly healthy turnout as a large crowd of spectators had gathered for the game. To be honest, I had secretly hoped for a smaller audience. The pep band was blaring out some familiar verses while my mind was rampantly replaying the dance routines I had endlessly rehearsed. Then came the captain’s prompt: Fight Song! That was my cue, and with that, I began my first performance as a cheerleader. Poised as I was to fulfill my role as a cheerleader that night, I found myself facing an even greater challenge: the challenge of how I would assume that responsibility. With the energy pulsating through the gymnasium and an unusually boisterous audience, I recall spurring on the crowds and reciprocating their excitement unconditionally; it filled me with a genuine satisfaction that culminated with a personal conviction that I belonged on that court. Cheerleading gave me a platform that encouraged me to present the most confident, animated side of myself in a way that felt genuine. Looking back, it was not just the decision to become a cheerleader; rather it was learning to fully embrace the sport that allowed me to slowly chip away at the boundaries I had personally built up. The times I spent cheering on the court marked some of my most memorable moments of my college career. I feel fortunate that the sport gave me an opportunity to combine athletic and artistic prowess into a form of advocacy and leadership. Even as I look back upon my cheerleading experience now, I still find myself pleasantly surprised when I relive some of the same lessons I faced when cheering on the court. Those moments sometimes manifest themselves in the simplest of ways. It comes with the confidence of talking to strangers at a cocktail party, in a job interview, or even during the many endearing arguments I have with my friends. I am also heading back to the of Chicago for law school, and I know I will draw upon my cheerleading experience as a law student. The cheerleader, who is always capable of bringing her A-game to deliver such charisma in a presentation, is not forgotten in me. Yet I also learned the importance of keeping my composure and spirits high even when I was not able to deliver a flawless performance. The sport put me in a context where I had to make decisions with confidence even in the spontaneity of the moment. I can firmly say being a cheerleader dissolved me of any prejudice I may have initially held about the sport. I am proud to have been a cheerleader and a part of a sport that has captivated American popular culture like no other. *** Lisa L. Fan Lisa Fan is an economic consultant soon-to-be-turned law student who works in Chicago. A cupcake and fine dining connoisseur, she loves trying out all the foodie spots in the city. A former gymnast, she is still a gymnastics enthusiast who can recite a dictionary of all the former greats in the sport. Story originally posted on Yahoo! Voices.

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