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What is a Cheerleader?



It is Friday night at a jam-packed stadium for a high school football game. The score is tied with only three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. This game determines if the home team will make it to the playoffs. As one looks onto the field from the stands, they see two very different groups, the football players and the rowdy cheerleaders on the sidelines. Most people will quickly gaze over the cheerleaders and devote their attention to the “real athletes” on the field; a cheerleader is just a bubbly airhead in a short skirt with perfect hair and makeup. They don’t have any knowledge of what is happening in the game; they are only needed to perform cheers to inspire fans and lead their team to victory. Wrong!

(Nice beginning. The reader already has a sense of where you're going, which is good.)



Cheerleaders are not athletes; yes, we have all heard that rumor before. According to a study at Wayne State University, it was finally proven that “competitive cheerleaders are in the same league physically as Olympic soccer and gymnastic contenders” and “ranked as well as any top level athlete and showed ‘superior athletic fitness’” (Cheerleaders Are Super Athletes). After I devoted six years of my life to competitive cheerleading while being told numerous times that I was not an athlete, cheerleaders are now receiving the recognition deserved. According to The American Heritage Dictionary, an athlete is “a person possessing the natural or acquired traits, such as strength, agility, and endurance that are necessary for physical exercise or sports, especially those performed in competitive sports.” Competitive cheerleading requires a superior amount of strength and strength training, for bases are required to put girls that weigh as much as they do a few feet above their heads in mounts. Endurance is required to be able to jump and perform a vigorous three minute routine with perfection; a typical practice for competitive cheerleaders entails doing the routine at least twenty times. Imagine cheering, jumping, tumbling, and lifting girls for two hours straight, and when one girl steps out of line, the routine stops and starts over at the beginning. But what does it take to make the actual squad?


(Cheerleaders are not athletes successfully refuted.)



Where I went to high school, there were an overwhelming number of girls that tried out for cheerleading. Freshmen year, I was one of 115 girls to try out for the squad. It is highly competitive to make the squad, for only forty girls make up two squads. I tried out for the first time and made it after performing a dance routine, making up my own cheer, and doing three different jumps in front of a panel of judges. Once one makes the squad, the practicing begins. To prepare for upcoming events, a typical cheerleader spends about ten hours each week practicing, performing, and executing her routine with her squad. The long hours and physical challenges that cheerleaders evoke in their life are similar to that of many athletes.



Cheerleaders are intelligent too; in order to even try out for the squad, one must have a set grade point average of at least a 2.0. This is the same requirement for other high school athletes. Freshmen year, two members of my squad were among the top ten graduates in their class; members of Steel Valley High School cheerleading squad included the valedictorian and salutatorian. My senior year of high school, the valedictorian was my fellow co-captain on the squad. I was ranked 6th in my graduating class, and we also had cheerleaders that were ranked 7th and 8th. So many times cheerleaders are looked upon as brainless and moronic. In high school, I was often victimized as the “typical dumb cheerleader.” Finally, once our short skirts and sparkling personalities were overlooked, critics realized we excelled inside the classroom, as well as outside the classroom, and were intelligent young women.

(Cheerleaders are bubbly airheads successfully refuted.)



As young leaders in the community, we were often called upon to appear at special events. The American Heritage Dictionary may only define a cheerleader as “someone who leads the cheers by spectators at a sporting event,” but a cheerleader is much more than just that. Sure, we performed at such fun and exciting events as the “Jerome Bettis Show,” car washes, and national cheerleading competitions, but we also attended school board meetings, raised money for charities, and were involved in our community. Promoting school spirit even when booed by opposing teams gave the term "leadership" a whole new meaning. Cheerleading requires the maturity and confidence needed to perform in front of a crowd and grasp their attention. As a cheerleader, you must also promote a positive attitude on and off the sidelines. When a cheerleader is in uniform, she is a leader. She is looked up to by her peers and members of the community. Leadership is a quality that athletes possess whether they want to or not, for they are idolized and must act in response to the attention. Yes, she might have just had the worst day of her life, but when a cheerleader puts on her uniform and cheerleading shoes, she must leave all negativity behind. Her new task as a leader is to smile, cheer, and support the squad and of course the team she is rooting for.

(Cheerleaders only cheer refuted.)



Although cheerleaders cannot make a jump shot and score two points, or throw a thirty yard pass for a touchdown, we “score points” constantly. Our leadership skills and talents are recognized in the community, and in the future, cheerleaders will be recognized by all as athletes. Next time you are at a sporting event and you see a group of cheerleaders, clap your hands in applause for them too. Cheerleaders are not just Barbie dolls; they work just as hard as any other athlete and deserve the same respect!



Works Cited

Ninemire, Valerie. “Recent Study Concludes Competitive Cheerleaders Super Fit.” Cheerleaders Are Super Athletes. About. 16 September 2005 <http://cheerleading.about.com/cs/health/a/athletes.htm>.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.

Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. 17 September 2005 <http://www.dictionary.com>.

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