by Chris Winiecki
You’ve decided you want to go to college. The next question you need to ask yourself, “Do I want to cheer in college?” To many cheerleaders this decision comes as a no-brainer. The chance to cheer at your favorite university has been the one thing that you have been working for your entire life. To others this decision will involve more of a “pro’s and con’s” lists, a lot of soul searching to decide if this is really what you want, and even more, searching for the right school and team for you to continue your cheerleading career.
College cheerleading is not for everyone. There is a level of commitment and dedication that no one else (besides your teammates and coaches) will ever truly be able to comprehend. You will not likely get what you think of as just compensation for your time and efforts. Let’s start by looking at a typical day for a college cheerleader. In the morning you wake up before the sun is even up, let’s say 5 A.M. for morning workouts. Workouts last around two to three hours depending on what time of year. Then after workouts you head to class.
Class may or may not be easy, thankfully most schools will provide you with tutors to try to keep up with the workload. Sometime between classes hopefully you get to run and get something to eat. Not every team provides meal plans for their athletes. For me, meal plan was a big part of my college decision. After lunch, you head back to class. Finally, the “school” day is done and you can head home for all of 20 minutes before you have to go back to school for your practice. Practice turns into the social event of the day for every cheerleader. This is where you get to see those people who turn into your family simply because they understand that the struggle really is real and you need someone to help you get through that struggle. Depending on the time of year practice ends around three hours after it starts. Your day is not done yet though. You have to go home and finish your homework and prepare for the next day of school.
There will be times where you don’t have school the next day or even for the next week. Unlike the sports at your school that have an offseason, you don’t get to take a break. There is a high likelihood that you will be leaving the next day to drive on the bus for 8 hours to go cheer at your rival school on Saturday. That means you miss Friday’s class. On the other hand, you could be going to a basketball tournament that will last all of next week and that means you miss an entire week of school. On the weeks that you don’t have to go away for whatever reason, you are probably going to be scheduled on appearances. This means you get to go to school events dressed as a cheerleader. You are literally the face of the entire school at the event. Everyone will look to you as an ambassador and genuinely believes that your behavior reflects the behavior of the entire school. You do not have the chance to make a mistake, every single day as a collegiate cheerleader is competition day. Makeup on and full out performance even on our worst day.
With all that considered, you have to wonder why anyone would sign up for this. Well I will tell you what; I have never met a college cheerleader that stuck through all four years and graduated that told me they regretted the experience. The best part of being on a college cheerleading team is that you are on a team with your best friends. There was never a practice that I did not want to go because of the people. In fact, I may have been tired, hungry, and sore, but I went to practice because of my teammates. There is a bond among college cheerleaders that is indescribable. You are all in it together, every single day. Lifelong friendships will be made on your college cheer team. These people are important because you go from being a child to an adult with them. You experience life for the first time with these people and they alone make it all worth the struggle.
Aside from your teammates there are countless other benefits that you receive from cheering in college. You bump shoulders with the most important people at your school during these appearances, and the coolest part of that experience is that nine times out of ten they know your name before you introduce yourself. There are, of course, monetary benefits if your school provides a scholarship. The benefit of being on the sideline when you watch every student rush the field after a big win, or starting a cheer and watching thousands of people cheer along with you.
College cheerleading was the hardest thing that I have ever done. It was also the best thing that I have ever done. I have memories from all around America. Even today, at job interviews I talk about my college cheerleading career. There is no question in my mind that cheerleading was worth every single ounce of sacrifice. Now it is your turn to answer the question, Do you want to cheer in college?