Far too many people make the assumption that cheerleading is about pom-poms, short skirts and popularity contests—offering little else to a young girl. Although those things were what drew me to the sport in the first place, this statement couldn’t be further from the truth.
When I was in high school, football cheerleading was a bit of a popularity contest. You had to be good AND you had to be popular. For basketball, you could simply be good. And we had over 100 cheerleaders at any given time of the year. It was a really big deal at my school. But, it wasn’t until I cheered in college and learned stunts that I really learned the lessons cheerleading had to offer. And it wasn’t until I coached a competitive high school team that I realized I was seeing the future leaders of our country.
I found one of the greatest benefits of being a competitive cheerleader was the transferable skills that I developed—which made the transition into the working world easier.
Here are just a few of the things that I gained while being a cheerleader:
Fitness: America is getting fatter, we are all well aware of this. By being a cheerleader, I kept the weight off while developing my muscular and cardiovascular systems. Maximum fitness is needed to maintain strength, endurance and flexibility to reduce the likelihood of injury to myself or my teammates. In addition, most cheerleaders are far more flexible than average adults due to the years of splits, jumps, and tumbles we perform. This flexibility, maintained throughout adulthood, reduces the risk of injury later in life. Other fitness related benefits include muscle tone, body posture improvement, endurance for daily activities, as well as athletics, overall physique and stabilizing of body weight. The proof was right there—by being a cheerleader, I looked better, felt better and was healthier.
Adversity: Adversity on the playing field teaches much the same skills needed in the corporate world. Being on the sidelines and watching things happen—knowing I had no control over whether they won or lost—taught me to keep a cool head in any situation and understand that, at times, there is nothing more I can do than to smile and keep encouraging my team, no matter what the situation.
Team Work: In the working world, one of the most important skills you can possess is to know how to effectively be a part of any team environment, whether you are the leader or whether you are a team player. Cheerleading taught me to depend on my team members just as much as they are depending on me to perform at my best level and deliver my part on time, every time.
Competition: Cheerleading is a competitive sport—with all the rules, regulations and restrictions that go along with any sport. As a cheerleader, I trained with the knowledge that success is only achievable when everyone works together. In the business world, there is an organizational chart, with each branch building to a lower level. In Cheerleading, we built literal pyramids—with every part depending on the foundation to stabilize the levels above. While the analogy is crossed, the necessity of those members to work together is the same.
Flexibility: New routines are created and learned each week. This takes dedication, as well as creativity to keep coming up with new material that is competitive, as well as entertaining. And when we are required to integrate new rules into competitive routines at the last minute, that flexibility training pays off! In every business that I have pursued in my adult life, I have always been rewarded for having flexibility coupled with creativity and a cool head.
Getting the Job Done: Anyone who believes that cheerleading is easy has never been one. Try learning a new routine in 4 hours and then performing it the next day (sore muscles and all) to a crowd of 20,000. Working with or leading a team is hard work that requires skills you often see in people who have succeeded in the business world.
Despite dwindling school budgets and program cuts, today’s cheerleaders make the most of the resources handed to them and in situations such as the National Cheerleaders Association (NCA) adjusting some rules and loosening up guidelines, it is the daredevils who figure out how to make the most of it. I’m sure we’ll see those same daredevils go on to greatness by creating the newest technologies or finding ways to work through tough situations and come out at the top.
Even when I’m faced with great adversity or difficult situations, being a cheerleader taught me how to handle myself with style and plenty of confidence. No matter what is thrown at me, I will be able to smile through anything and make the best out of any situation.
Being a cheerleader is far more than jumping around on a football field and looking pretty. It is about learning life skills and making the most out of what you have.