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Sixteen Years of Cheerleading Taught Me to Smile Through Anything

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.

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Adryenn Ashley

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  1. Profile photo of Rhoda D'Ettore
    October 31, 2014

    Any activity teens enter that builds characters and teaches discipline is going to be a good foundation for the things to come. But there are stereotypes, just like those people have towards cheerleaders, the post sort of sounded as is fat people have no muscle tone or flexibility, and that is not true either. Over all, if it is something productive and the child/teen/young adult enjoys, more power to them. Unfortunately, some of our schools do not even have the money to stay open, let alone have extra-curricular activities.

  2. Profile photo of Clara
    October 30, 2014

    I admire cheerleaders. It takes a great deal of confidence to go out and do what they do. I wanted to be a cheerleader myself. I was too shy. I believe cheering is a sport and should be taken very seriously. If my daughter wanted to be a cheerleader I would do whatever I could do to help her be successful at it.

  3. Profile photo of Jenny Dong
    October 28, 2014

    @Scott You are right on the spot!

    Even though some people see cheerleaders and dancers as a group of “elitists,” they really aren’t. Cheerleaders really do go through a lot and have to make it through some tough times!

  4. Profile photo of Lanika
    October 27, 2014

    To be honest, I always thought that the girls on the cheer-leading team were all bullies. I never thought that I would be a cheerleader when I was in high school. Everyone told me I had all the skills that was needed. The only thing that was holding me back was the other girls on the team. One day I decided that I am not going to allow anyone to stop me from doing what I was made for. I remember doing the audition and all the girls loved me (I was surprised by their reactions). After a couple weeks, I realized that I was only imagining things. Not only were they nice, but cheer-leading changed apart of my life. It showed me not to judge others and also I should always have confidence within myself.

  5. Profile photo of Sarah Carson
    October 24, 2014

    I have always been a fan on cheerleading but I never had what it took to actually be one so I had to admire from afar. I always found cheerleaders to have such a happy and bubbly life and I love surrounding myself around them. It is great. I hate that people bash cheerleaders and talk all this junk about them when really they do nothing wrong but share their happiness.

    It is very hard not to be judgmental these days because everyone is so quick to jump to conclusions but it can be done and we have to try hard not to fall into the trap.

  6. Profile photo of Cristian
    October 23, 2014

    I totally agree with Scott, cheerleading is about being specialized in gymnastics and putting it a lot of effort and dedication into it. Cheerleading shouldn’t be disparaged and I believe those who do this are fools.

  7. Profile photo of Allison
    October 22, 2014

    I was a competitive cheerleader and can relate to every point you’ve made. It’s certainly a lot more than pom-poms, short skirts, and popularity contests. We all had nicknames for each other on my team, and mine was “Smiles”. Even as captain if I found myself punishing the girls by making them run laps, etc. I always had a smile on my face. If it was raining outside when we were cheering, I had a big grin on at all times despite how miserable and cold I was. If someone in the team was down, we were all down. We all had to work as a team and get things done. In competition you realize how important this is. All because there is one good cheerleader on the team doesn’t make the whole team good.

  8. Profile photo of Lisa
    October 22, 2014

    I was a cheerleader up until I was 12 years old. I took a few years off to play sports, and I later joined my high schools dance and drill team my freshman year. We performed with the marching band during half-time at the football games. I had an amazing experience and it really built my self-confidence.

    The fact that I was a cheerleader when I was younger was a major help to me. Cheering helped prepare me to learn routines at a fast pace and it showed me the value of teamwork. It’s hard to be a team when some people don’t do the work that is required. I always pushed myself to do my best and not bring any issues I was dealing with to a practice or game.

  9. Profile photo of Scott
    October 19, 2014

    I have always considered cheerleading to be specialized gymnastics with a dance element. You definitely make the case for it. 🙂

    Anyone who disparages cheerleaders should note that the last president of the United States was head cheerleader in college. No matter what anyone’s political opinion on George Bush is, they can’t deny that he had spirit! Yes he did!

  10. Profile photo of Trisha Faulkner
    October 19, 2014

    This is actually really kind of cool to read. Not going to like about 90-95 percent of the cheerleaders I went to school with when I was growing up were awful people. I was the overweight nerdy girl who they enjoyed making fun of.

    That being said, I also had two very good friends who were on the cheerleading squad. They were amazing and nothing like the rest of them.

    I try not to pre-judge or stereotype (tried not to do it then either). But, it was hard when teenagers are so judgmental and quick to decide whether they liked you or not.

    One thing I noticed about my two cheerleading friends (one who I’m still friends with today) was that they always found a way to smile. Even through the hard times.


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