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4 reasons it’s okay to let your kid cheer

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Cheer Mom

I’ve been wanting to do a new series on here for awhile and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about but then a friend asked about a cheer mom series and I thought sure, why not? I am a cheer mom. I can talk about it. And being behind the scenes, I can probably shed some light on a few parts of cheer most people are skeptical about, or might not know about (or even care to know about). But if you have a daughter, she might want to cheer some day. And before you say no, please read through this series. It might change your mind.

cheer mom button

If you asked me, when I was pregnant, what kind of “sport mom” I’d be, I’d say something like soccer mom or softball mom or dance mom. But cheer mom? No way in hell. It’s not something I ever imagined. I was never a cheerleader myself. I never had any desire to be one.  I never talked to my daughter about it. So when we had the “what activity would you like to do” discussion, and she said cheerleading, we were floored. STUNNED. The questions (“really? Are you sure?” and privately to each other “Why us?”) started. But she was adamant so we signed her up.

Two years later, she’s still going at it. With no signs of stopping.

Despite our initial trepidation, we’re glad she cheers (even with the early Sunday mornings for competitions) and here’s why I think you need to consider letting your kid cheer (even if your initial reaction is similar to ours): 

This ecard makes me rage.

  • It’s not about you. It’s about your kid. Not allowing your kid to cheer because you hate cheerleading or you buy into all the stereotypes about it is, to me, ridiculous. And this is coming from someone who repeatedly said to her daughter “are you sure cheer is what you want” before I registered her and paid for it. As parents, we have a responsibility to our kids to let them make their own choices. If we prevent them from making some choices that are essentially harmless, like joining a cheer squad, we take some of that autonomy away from them (we’ll discuss options for cheer and affording it in another post). Sometimes we have to let them choose what they want and let them figure out if it’s the right choice for them.
  • They learn skills that transcend the mat. Belonging to a cheer squad, like any team, teaches kids skills like responsibility, teamwork, problem solving, time management, and self-confidence. These skills help them in school, in social situations, and even at home. Take my daughter, for example. Before she started cheering, she was painfully shy. She wouldn’t talk to anyone she didn’t know; she wouldn’t even order for herself in restaurants. When we moved between her kindergarten and first grade years, we were scared–TERRIFIED–that she wouldn’t make new friends. But, thanks to joining her squad, she did. Not only that, new people don’t consistently freak her out. She’s more outgoing, and the self-confidence she’s gained from performing has made her more comfortable in new situations. And she’s learning to balance the responsibilities of practice and school. 

 
cheer quote

  • It’s great exercise. Make no mistake about it. Cheerleading, especially competitive cheerleading, is physically challenging. These girls work hard. They sweat. They run. They condition. They lift and throw other children in the air. And they catch them! They put their bodies through workouts that most adults don’t do (and as the girls get older, it gets physically more demanding. Much more demanding). When so many kids don’t get enough exercise, it’s hard not to support a choice that would add anywhere between 4-10 hours per week of activity (my daughter is in the 6 hour range).

 
cheerleader

  • Your sport does not dictate your personality. It does not dictate how you treat people, how you behave in public, how you perform in school, or anything else. Your kid can be just as much of troublemaker or poor student being on the yearbook staff as they can on the cheer squad. Are some of the stereotypes true? Yep. Do you have the ability to teach your child how not to be the stereotype? Yep. And here’s the kicker in all of this–every group has a stereotype. Every. Single. One. And cheerleaders don’t exactly have a great reputation. But if you’re raising your kid to be respectful, to work hard, and to be kind, then that’s how she’ll be remembered. The cheerleader label will simply be another adjective.

 
Speaking as a very reluctant cheer mom, and one who still doesn’t always buy into the glitter, bling, and pep, I maintain that your kid wanting to cheer isn’t the worst thing in the world. There’s a lot they stand to gain by joining a squad, and you’ll get a heck of an education.

Trust me on that last one.

Alright. So now that I’ve convinced you that being a cheerleader is not that worst thing that can happen to your daughter (or you), let’s take a peek at what else we’ll be covering in this series:

Week 2: What to expect as a cheer mom

Week 3: Cheer expenses

Week 4: Things people will say to you (and how to handle them)

Week 5: Competition Day: How to survive it

Week 6: Topic TBD

 

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Saving money on cheer gear

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Cheer Mom

This is part 2 in my cheer mom series. Make sure you catch up by reading part 1–why it’s okay to let your kid cheer.cheer mom button

There’s no easy way to say this, and I’m sorry in advance to those of you who thought that maybe I’d say something different. But if your child is interested in cheerleading, there’s one completely unavoidable fact. 

It is expensive. 

I don’t know that’s it’s necessarily more expensive than sports like gymnastics or hockey or ice skating or dance, but cheer, especially competitive cheer, can come with a hefty price tag. 

Sorry. 

I wish I had better news. 

The main items you can expect to pay for:

  • Registration fees
  • Uniform
  • Cheer shoes, bow, accessories, makeup, socks
  • Practice gear (some squads require a practice uniform, some do not so this might not apply to you)
  • Hair accessories–curlers or curling iron (some people buy “cheer hair” instead and it makes me a little sad to write that sentence because I want to pretend that fake cheer hair isn’t a real thing), bobby pins, hairspray (lots and lots of hairspray)
  • Tumbling classes (sometimes it’s optional, sometimes it’s included in the registration fee, sometimes you have to pay for the classes separately)
  • Cheer photos (individual and team)–optional
  • Cheer camp–optional (depends on the squad. Might be required)
  • Hotel fees for away competitions
  • Spectator tickets at competitions

I’m sure there’s a whole bunch of items I’ve forgotten but this gives a pretty good breakdown of common expenses. I’ve purposefully left out prices because they vary wildly from squad to squad, league to league. But a conservative estimate for a 10 month competitive cheer experience is $3000. It might be more. If you do half a year, or your child only cheers for a rec league at football games and there’s no competitions, the cost is significantly less. If your child want to cheer for her school, and only her school, I’d guess it’s in the neighborhood of $1000. 

Looking at the itemized list, you’re probably thinking “holy crap, that’s way too many things I need to pay for and I’m going to go broke if my daughter wants to cheer.” I know that because I thought the same thing during my daughter’s first year. And when the bill comes around at the beginning of each season, I still think the same thing. It’s overwhelming.

The good news is that cheer is not entirely cost prohibitive, and there are a few ways you can make the experience more financially manageable for you, your family, and your cheerleader:

Uniform photo found on Omni Cheer

Uniform photo found on Omni Cheer

Budget, part 1. Most squads and leagues, at least in my experience, are upfront about their fees. You can typically find them on the squad’s website and if you can’t, give the contact person a call or send an email asking for that information. So when you’re researching a squad or league to join, look at how much it’ll cost and then look at your monthly budget. See a) if it fits in or b) if you can make some adjustments in other areas to make cheer fit your budget. Looking at your overall financial picture in comparison to the fees will let you know what you can and can’t afford. There are leagues and squads for every budget and, depending on what kind of cheer experience you’re looking for, you should be able to find one that fits what you can afford. 

Budget, part 2. Not only do you need to determine how the baseline expenses like uniform and registration fit with your budget, but you also need to account for things like vendors at competitions. Those vendors, especially the ones that sell the bows, are smart marketers and it’s hard not buy a T-shirt for your kid at every competition. But if you have more than one child and you have more than one competition per season, this stuff can add up quickly. Prior to each competition, set a budget limit for these items and bring only that amount of money. Or, instead, tell your kid that you’ll buy stuff at one or two competitions per season. That should be sufficient to satisfy your kid’s desire for competition swag and not kill your budget.

Investigate discount options. I think that title might be misleading but let’s keep going. When you register your child, are there discounts for paying in full on the day of registration or for registering early? If the squad needs to buy new bows, is a percentage taken off the total price for ordering in bulk? Are there coupon codes available for a website that sells cheer shoes or accessories? Can you purchase a used uniform from an older girl who outgrew hers or who quit cheering (note: this only works if the squad doesn’t change uniforms every year)? For items like hairspray and bobby pins, can you get those items at the dollar store or clip coupons for them? If you’re creative, you can find all different methods to cut costs on all non-fixed expenses which helps make the sport more budget friendly.

Participate in fundraisers. Many squads will do fundraisers to offset the costs of travel expenses, registration fees at competitions, new equipment (like mats), or even apply towards the cost of uniforms or tumbling classes. Depending on the type of fundraiser, it can make a big difference. (Confession: I don’t do these since I hate asking people for money and between school fundraisers and cheer fundraisers, I feel like I’d be taking advantage of my family and friends. I’d rather just budget the money and pay out of pocket.)

The only other suggestion I can offer is this: if your child wants to cheer and it is completely outside the realm of financial possibility, talk to the coach or cheer director or league president. There might be scholarships or additional payment plans or some other way they can help you afford it. Most of them are very understanding.

It bears repeating: cheerleading is expensive. But it doesn’t have to make you broke.

Do you have any money saving tips for cheer parents? What did I miss? 

 

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Random thoughts from a new(ish) cheer mom

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Cheer Mom

As a second year cheer mom, I consider myself a veteran. Well, not so much a veteran as not a rookie because I still have a lot to learn but now that I have some experience under my belt, I feel totally qualified to share with you the the thoughts that went through my mind during my daughter’s first year (and, if I’m being totally honest, I still think some of these and from talking to some experienced cheer moms, some of these thoughts never actually go away; they just become more bearable).

So, just like I provided you with a special glimpse into what I think in the school pick-up line, here’s a whole bunch of thoughts from me, the relatively new cheer mom (you can also read more thoughts on cheerleading in the post that started this whole series): 

cheer mom thoughts

Everything but the competitions

Three practices a week? Competitions on Sundays? Football on Saturdays? Wow, this is time consuming. I did not expect that. 

Well, there goes my life. Good thing I really didn’t have one to being with.

Holy shit, cheerleading is expensive. Well, there goes my money. We didn’t need to eat anyway.

What do you mean, I have to pay more money? I’m going to have to sell my blood or an internal organ to keep affording this. Which ones can I go without?

Seriously, you want more money? I literally have nothing left. 

On the bright side, I’m going to get so much done during her practices! I’ll be so productive. 

I don’t know why I thought I’d be productive. I might as well just stay because by the time I get home I’ll have to come back and of course the internet connection here is the worst. 

Guess I’ll just talk to the other moms. It’s a shame I’m so awkward. I can’t imagine this going well.

I should just stay in a corner or my car and read a book.

Did my child just lift another child into the air? 

I hope she doesn’t drop that girl because that would make things really uncomfortable between our family and hers. Even more uncomfortable than me trying to make conversation. 

How much cushion is in those mats? 

Oh, my. This is a mess. 

I think I need a cheerleader to Jana dictionary because I have no clue what anyone is saying. 

Am I the only one who’s confused? I can’t possibly be the only one who doesn’t understand a word of what that coach is saying. But I look like I’m the only one who’s confused.

I’m going to be spending my fair share time Googling these words. 

Is there a subtle way to Google while the coach is speaking? 

I need to go home before I embarrass my child. I’m WAY out of my comfort zone.

At competitions

Holy fuck, Bring It On is not fiction!!! I will never mock the accuracy of that movie ever again.

It is way too early in the day for this. People should only get up this early if they’re leaving for vacation.

If Katy Perry (or Taylor Swift) is in one more team’s music, I’m going to lose my mind.

Cheer music is terrible. But not as bad as the DJ. OMG, he seriously needs to shut up. 

I’d look ridiculous in a cheer mom shirt. I should get one anyway. I mean, that dad is totally rocking his cheer dad shirt. #noshame at these things.

These vendors must make a killing at these competitions. I should figure out how to make this stuff and sell it at a competition. Then I’d be able to pay for cheerleading and keep all my organs and blood!

These older girls are spectacular. Human beings should not be able to do that. Bending and jumping that way isn’t natural.

There are an awful lot of girls here wearing knee and wrist braces. I think I’m concerned.

I have to pee. I’ve put it off long enough. 

I just found a cheerleader free bathroom! This is basically the best thing that’s happened to me all day. 

Seriously, we have to wait how long before they hand out awards? Haven’t we been here long enough?

NO!!! Don’t play “The Wobble” again!!!

The DJ is now my sworn enemy.

My daughter’s squad really was better than all the others. That’s fact.

Holy shit, they won!!! Mat magic is a real thing!!!

Oh, thank god this is over. I can’t wait to get home and take a nap.

 

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