Confessions of a Former High School Cheerleader

For over 10 years, I dedicated myself to a sport that I sometimes hated. There were days when I didn’t see the point, didn’t know why I was subjecting myself to this, and didn’t want to continue. As I got older and got into high school, some days those “why am I doing this” feelings only seemed to intensify. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my sport, my team, the whole thing; there were just days when it got to a point where I didn’t know why I was still doing it, when it seemed like there would never be any growth and that I would be stuck where I was forever, or at least for the rest of my cheerleading career. No one ever talks about this when they talk about cheer.

No one ever talks about the hot, grueling practices or how camp sometimes actually sucked. Sure, we all love our teams looking back, but what about how much we all secretly wished the season would hurry up and come to an end when the drama really started and the cattiness that is inevitable when you throw 25 girls together starts to come out. We loved standing out there underneath those Friday night lights, and god, what I wouldn’t give to have that just one more time. But looking back it was exhausting standing in front of a crowd who didn’t support us, a crowd who believed cheerleading wasn’t a sport and thought that we were just there to parade around in skirts while yelling stupid cheers for a team who (it seemed) never win a game. Constantly having to defend my sport, my team, my girls to everyone else was tiring; just once, it would have been nice to have been acknowledged like every other athlete got. We loved cheering those boys on, but not when they blamed us for the loss, as if we could’ve changed the numbers on the scoreboard.

I could go on about every negative aspect of cheerleading, but the biggest confession of all, something I never thought I would ever have to say, is that I miss it more than I ever thought possible. I miss the hours spent in the hot summer sun going through a routine over and over. I miss hearing “one more time”, while knowing there would be 50 more “one more times” until it was actually the last time. I miss wearing that uniform to school and standing under the lights on the track. I couldn’t think of a better way to have spent my Friday nights. I miss that feeling when I got the phone call that I made varsity. The same feeling I got when I was chosen as captain, and the feeling of hitting a routine, no matter how many times it had been done before. I miss being a part of something bigger than just me. I miss knowing that I just had to get through the school day, and then I would be able to spend 2 hours with some of my best friends, (even if we did get catty sometimes). There are many days when I wish I could snap my fingers and go back to one of our pre-games, getting ready at someone’s house. Eating pizza, dancing to songs I’ll never get sick of, and doing each other’s hair and makeup to make sure we all looked uniform. Thinking about it leaves me with nothing but a smile on my face and an aching in my heart for something I’ll never have again. Those team bonding sessions will always have a special place in my heart. Almost as special were the bus rides to and from games, especially on the nights that we won. Some of our deepest conversations happened on those bus rides, and some of the strongest bonds I have made with my teammates were on the quieter rides home. We spilled secrets knowing they would never leave that bus.

No matter how many negative aspects I could pick out from my years of cheer, I can always find a million more positives. Cheerleading changed my outlook on life, shaped me as an individual, and made me feel so welcome and a part of something. Sitting here in my dorm room, I can’t help but think what I would give to have one last night to put that uniform on and get in cheer lines. I guess the only thing left to say is “thank you”. Thank you to my sport, my coaches, my teammates and co-captains, and thank you to all the teams I’ve cheered for. I know that I wouldn’t be who I am today had I not fallen in love with the sport I never even thought I would like. Thank you to my parents for pushing me to try new things, driving me to every practice, game, and event, and for being my number one fans. It might have seemed like I didn’t love it, but it always left me with a smile on my face to see you sitting in those stands rain or shine, on the hottest days of September and the coldest nights in October. It must’ve gotten old to listening to the same cheers year in and year out.

I know it’s time to move on, but some days it’s easier said than done. No one ever tells you that part.