I can say that most cheerleading parents petrify me, because it wasn't all that long ago that I was one. I vividly recall the roar of the crowd, the ear-drum busting music, the headache-inducing laser lighting, the over-the-top sound effects and team after team of bobbly-headed babies procuring the stage with a singular undertaking: to "bring it."
Yes, it really is a great deal like the corny movie franchise in real life. Save your chagrin for later.
It wasn't until I got my daughter "out" that I realized the stigmata that went along with being "in."
In fact, I remember the first time my eyebrow achieved the full, upright position and didn't retract. I was renting a car for a five-hour trek from San Antonio to Dallas, all in the name of a cheerleading competition. The rental fella, who went by the name of Ernie, told me all about the other parents he had helped that day. Ernie and I had a nice chat. And then, Ernie said the phrase that stuck, "You are the only normal cheer parent I have ever met. The rest of them are like those 'nutso', TV pageant moms."
Yes, "Toddlers and Tiara" style.
I didn't blink, I didn't gulp. I didn't even flinch. You see, I had already made the choice to take my daughter out of this bow-sporting, glitter-encrusted mess at the end of the season.
I had done the math. Frankly, shelling out $10,000 - $15,000 a year for a sport that "wasn't a sport" lost its appeal when translating to dollar signs. It lost even more charm when I found out that cheerleading has the highest level of catastrophic injury to female athletes and the worst sportsmanship I had ever seen, to boot. Ernie's comment cemented what I already concluded: cheerleading was not for us. So at the end of the season, we packed up our pom-poms, never to return again. However, it wasn't just the money. Over the years that my daughter participated in cheerleading, I noticed three disturbing trends among many of the parents, and they all revolved around a dangerous condition known as "group think." This condition turns otherwise reasonable, sane people into shadows of themselves, putting off a mob mentality. In short, there are three compelling reasons cheerleading parents need to take a step back and turn off the mob mindset.1. They encourage poor sportsmanship. Mind you, poor sportsmanship is not exclusive to cheerleading parents, but I have never seen a sport where the teams, parents or onlookers fail to cheer for other teams or congratulate the winning team as much as I have in this sport. By much, I mean, nearly every time.
2. The franchise is a Ponzi scheme, and the parents know it. All cheerleading venues are owned by a singular company (Varsity Brands). This one entity holds over 66 "national competitions" a year. Essentially, everyone is a winner. Everyone gets a trophy of some kind for at least one "national." There is no such thing as a legitimate "win." Parents know this, but sink money into the franchise like the Titanic. The constant "winning" spoils the athletes and is part of the reason cheerleaders have a less-than-stellar reputation.
3. They expose their athlete to injury. When football players, basketball players or soccer players are injured, they are out of the game, and sometimes even the season. Not so in cheerleading. I witnessed athletes encouraged to "suck it up" by their parents despite hurt wrists, broken bones and mangling injuries. Even with a cast on, some girls took the floor.
Now, I'm not saying that's the way it is "everywhere" but I can say that's what I saw in Texas all-star programs, and it's not worth putting my daughter through or something I'm willing to put my money into, and I don't think I'm the only one. Am I?...Hello?....Anybody? Drat. I guess you can't hear me through the group think.