I loved being a cheerleader. There. I said it.
And I would be proud if my daughters wanted to follow in my footsteps and become cheerleaders, too.
I honestly loved it. I cheered for knee-high football leagues from the time I was in elementary school until middle school, and I made the high school freshman squad then spent three years on the Varsity squad. As a senior, I was captain. I spent a ton of years cheering, and I enjoyed every one of them.
I loved the leadership opportunities that cheerleading afforded me. I loved that cheerleading kept me healthy and strong and taught me to work cooperatively--collaboratively--with a group of my peers. I loved the challenge of learning something new, trying out difficult stunts, seeing exciting places, and meeting people from all over our area. I loved feeling like I was a key player in generating spirit for a school I truly adored.
Does that color your perception of me? Does being a cheerleader mean I'm an airhead? Ditsy and easy? A snob? A party girl? Do you have visions of me paying people to write my essays or finish my calculus homework?
Or does it not change the way you view me because you recognize cheerleaders for the athletes they are--hard-working, dedicated young women-and men-whose hours upon hours of practice each week, coupled with weight training and fitness work drives them to competitions all around the country? Gymnasts, dancers, and academics, many of whom earn scholarships to some of the most elite colleges and universities out there.
I took my 6 year-old daughter to a cheerleading competition here in November. Living in the suburbs of Washington, DC, the level of competition far surpasses what I remember in my own high school in back in the Keystone state. My daughter and I were in awe at the skills and talent of the teams, and we talked about the time, effort, and energy every person must have put into practice in order to become as good as they were. My daughter was was starry-eyed and said she wanted to be a cheerleader and wanted to be as good as girls on the teams we saw. She begged for a cheerleading birthday party, she wanted to watch other competitions, and she hoped to someday learn how to do their complicated twists and flips.
It's not necessarily my dream for her-or my other daughter-to follow in my footsteps, in any aspect of their lives, let alone cheerleading. But should either of them want to work hard to be the athletes, gymnasts, dancers, and leaders in their schools that cheerleading requires, that's fine with me. Like every parent I know, I'm doing my best at the most difficult job out there, so if my girls can make it to high school as confident, self-assured, and responsible young women who find value in working as a part of a team-any team-I'd be proud.
I plan on cheering them on from the sidelines no matter what game they're playing on the field.
Amy Mascott is a proud member of the Yahoo! Mother Board and shares the ways she sneaks a little bit of learning into her three kids' days at teach mama. Join her-and tons of other talented teachers and parents--at we teach, or tweet with her at @teachmama.
Photo courtesy of Microsoft.com