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.
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):
- 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.
- 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).
- 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