The spotters held their breath while my flyer balanced on one foot above my head. Suddenly, she tipped over and came tumbling down right on top of me. But this wasn’t the first time. I get used as a human punching bag at almost every cheer practice. My arms turn red from catching my flyer. My shoulder has a practically permanent dent from my flyer’s finger nails. But this time the room started spinning and I got sent to the trainer.
Cheerleading seems like it’s all smiles, cute uniforms and Columbia blue pom poms. That is, until someone gets a concussion or their eyelashes ripped out.
Sure, we wear short skirts and do little chants on the sidelines, but cheer is based on stunting, which is just a fancy name for flinging people six feet into the air for entertainment. The problem is, we only get to stunt a few times per game or pep assembly, so most of our hard work goes unnoticed. We end up being written off as airheads that jump around and chant like broken records. Yes, girl in the back of the stands, I do see you whispering and pointing.
So don’t let the smiles and skirts confuse you, stunting is hardcore. It’s kind of like lifting weights, but the weight is a moving, 100 pound person who is almost as tall as you. Plus, if you drop the weight, you have to throw yourself under it to catch it. That’s exactly how a freshman got half of her eyelashes ripped out at stunt camp. Practice is not exactly reassuring when I usually end up with a slapped face, bruised collarbone or numb wrist.
But I put up with a whole year of sore arms and bruises and being stereotyped because of that gravity-defying moment when my group hits a stunt. How proud I get when my flyer can do some crazy pose on one foot in the air because we have the stunt balanced just right. The little flutter in my stomach when my coach texts our group about new stunts that she wants us to do because she knows we can take it. The gasp from the student section when my flyer does a backflip onto her stomach in our new pyramid.
Cheerleading has found a way to combine short skirts, stagefright and people falling on your head into one completely underrated sport. So the next time you’re at a game or a pep assembly, please resist from making some snarky comment about us to your friends. Would you like to come down here and try to do what we do?
Didn’t think so.