Sunday, November 8, 2009

Why CHEERLEADING is the hardest sport.

Yesterday was the toughest day of my coaching career. Our squad competed for a Region title and chance to advance to the State finals. Unfortunately, it wasn't in the cards for us to go to State this year. Yea, what a bummer...oh well, life goes on, right? I wish it was that easy. I wish I could just move past what happened yesterday and be content with the fact that it wasn't meant to be for us. But that's why cheerleading is so hard...

I've been on both ends of the blue mat...once competing as a cheerleader myself...and now sitting on the sidelines as a coach. I've also played other sports, so I feel confident in my ability to proclaim cheerleading as the hardest sport there is. Here's why: To be a cheerleader, you HAVE to be an athlete. Months, even years, go into training your body to bend backwards, stretch your leg behind your head, jump 4 feet off the ground while pointing your toes, flip backwards..forwards...sideways...all while landing on your feet, hold 115 lbs of pure human muscle over your head..without dropping them, throw people into the air and of course...catch them, and all while doing this...look graceful and poised. I've seen football and baseball players come to a cheerleading practice and attempt to hold a girl above their heads...fail...and not come back the next day, probably out of sheer embarrassment! That's why cheerleading is so hard...

Another reason why I feel cheerleading is the hardest sport is the time frame in which we 'play'. Our 'game time' is only 2 minutes and 30 seconds. While it may feel like 10 minutes to the cheerleader during the routine, it really is only 2 short minutes and 30 short seconds to show what you've been practicing 7 or 8 month for. A cheerleading season begins somewhere around April with tryouts, and in GHSA, ends in November. That's 7 months of preparation, practice, training, sweating, pain, injuries, tears, laughter, bonding, fighting, and lots of praying. We practice for 7 months only to get 2:30 minutes to show for it. It's a one time deal...no matter how many times you stick it at practice, if you don't do well on THAT day, it doesn't matter. Unlike other sports, cheerleaders don't get halftimes, water breaks, or timeouts. We don't have a bench with other cheerleaders waiting to step in for us if we're too tired. Coaches can't stop in the middle of the routine to replace a cheerleader who just messed up with someone else who might be able to do a better job. In cheerleading, there's no second half left for us to make a come back, no overtimes, no 'challenging the referee's call" if we didn't like it. It's not like a cheerleader can stop mid-routine and ask the coach to let someone else do their stunt sequence because they feel tired, or twisted an ankle, or just got busted in the lip. They have to keep pushing, because the rest of the team relies on them, needs them, and trusts that they will give their very best. That's why cheerleading is so hard...

Cheerleading is the hardest sport because of how we win. Unlike other sports, we can't win just because we 'scored a touchdown, made a basket, touched home plate, or crossed the finish line first'. It's not as simple as that. We have a list of things to accomplish during the routine; like stunts, jumps, pyramids, tumbling, dance, and basket tosses. Just because we do them, doesn't mean we win...it's how we LOOK while doing them. Cheerleaders must be graceful, light on their feet, move around 15 other people on the floor without bumping into one of them, and have a smile on their face the whole time, too. In football, if you make a touchdown, it doesn't matter how great you looked while running, if you tripped while crossing the goal line, or if you were sloppy catching the ball. If you did it...then you get the points! In cheerleading, if you attempt a tuck but touch down, attempt a scorpion but it's low, or attempt a jump and don't point your toes...you DON'T win. That's because our fate is in the hands of people called 'judges'....who most of the time coaches don't agree with, but that's another story for another day. If these people, called judges, don't like your routine, you don't win. It's as simple as that. If they think your dance was weak, even though you think it rocked, you don't win. It's all in the hands of the judges...fallible human beings who can be biased, opinionated, and controlling. That's why cheerleading is so hard...

On top of all that, there's also this thing called 'deductions'. BOOOOO to deductions. We HATE deductions. Deductions make or break a win. While trying to do the impossible in 2:30 minutes, you can't make any mistakes. Don't let your knees or butt touch the ground....EVVVEERRR! Don't let your hair bow fall out, or shoe fall off, because you'll get (in a low, resounding voice) A DEEEDDDUUUCCTIIIIIOONNNNN! Don't step off the mat, or let your flyer's head go below her waist on a cradle. As if cheerleaders don't have enough pressure to perform a perfect routine, they have to feel the glaring eyes of a deduction judge staring them down, waiting for someone to mess up, so they can count off 5 points. How come I don't see other sports take away points from the score board if someone's helmet falls off, or trips running down the court, or falls to their knees while making a catch? So, why do it in cheerleading? Because CHEERLEADING'S THE HARDEST SPORT!

After all of that pressure, pain, and heartache, why would anyone still want to be a cheerleader? Because of the love of the sport...the high you get right before you take the floor, the energy you feel from the crowd, the feeling after you just nailed a perfect routine, the friendships, the memories, and of course...THE PRIDE! I love cheerleading, I love coaching, and I love my team. Even though I cried a few tears last night, and this morning, I'm not going to let a loss keep me from doing what I love. "I HAVE FOUGHT THE GOOD FIGHT, I HAVE FINISHED THE RACE, I HAVE KEPT THE FAITH"! (2 Tim 4:7)...all for you ladies. I love you and will miss you.

Love always,
Coach Ewing

7 comments:

  1. What a great post, Paige! You should get this one published somewhere as a tribute to all cheerleaders. Sorry that ya'll didn't win. Kathy in G'ville

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  2. Your spirit and dedication to your sport still fills the hallways of PCA....You created an outstanding program. Although I am doing my best to raise a ballplayer, Ashton's heart belongs to cheering right now. I have known lots of cheerleaders from PCA, and YES it is definitely a sport that takes more dedication than any other. Thank you for creating that tradition at PCA.

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  3. As a Mom, you really put it all out there in the most precise way. I wish I could share your post on my page.

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  4. Very well said, and I agree 100%... I was a Cheerleader in College. I have coached for 14 years, and I have a daughter that cheers for her school and competes on an All-Star team. I would also like to add one more thing... The lack of respect... For the sport and the children involved, is also a problem. I don't think people relize. Cheerleading has grown to be so much more than girls in short skirts jumping around etc... Good Luck to your team. Thank you for putting this so beautifully.

    Coach Dee
    Florida

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  5. I thought wrestling was the hardest sport, but you have convinced me by FAR that cheerleading is a tougher and harder sport!

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  6. Gymnastics is harder, but cheerleading is hard too.

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