by Alex Diaz
To the cheerleader wondering if it’s time to turn in their uniform,
I left. But I came back. It is easy to wake up one morning and decide that competitive cheerleading just isn’t for you anymore, but what you don’t know is how hard it is to sit and watch from the sidelines when all you’ve ever known is the stage. Every cheerleader has their doubts. “Is it worth it?” “Is this really how I want to be spending all of my time?” And, in these moments of doubt, I implore you to remember. Remember what it feels like when you get a new tumbling skill. Remember what it feels like to hit your stunt for the first time. Remember what it feels like under the bright lights. Most importantly, remember what it feels like to have a family outside of your home.
It’s common knowledge that cheerleading is a demanding sport. It will demand your time, it will demand your resources, and it will demand your body and mind to do the impossible. But that’s life too. I can tell you right now, daydreaming about quitting cheer is so much more exhilarating than actually doing it. Before I took a season off I had been involved in cheer since I was eight and I felt that quitting cheer would solve everything. I’d have more time for friends, more time for school, maybe I’d even get to go on a real vacation! Sounds awesome right? Wrong. Cheerleading does not take up time, it fills up hours where you would otherwise be doing nothing. If anything, cheerleading has made me learn to manage my time efficiently and wisely while appreciating the free time I do have.
Furthermore, All-Star cheer is all about connecting. Yes, it’s about connecting skills but more importantly, it’s about connecting with people. You may not realize it, but as a cheerleader, you are constantly connecting. You connect with your teammates, you connect with your coaches, you connect with cheerleaders from other gyms, and for two minutes and thirty seconds you connect with the judges. The connections you gain from cheerleading extend far beyond the mat. Some of the friendships I have made from cheerleading will last a lifetime. Cheer brings people together from all over, and think about it, where else are you going to be exposed to such a diverse group of people prior to heading off to college?
All-Star cheer makes you tough, makes you a team player, and makes you unique. Few other sports require the grit that cheerleading does. No one knows like we do about all the hard work, the sweat, the tears, and the bruises that are so seamlessly covered by makeup and a great performance. Odds are you’ve had to argue with ignorant classmates about whether or not cheer is a sport. These little things may seem annoying, but what cheer does goes far beyond that. The hard work makes you a fighter, the incessant bickering over whether or not cheer is a sport makes you a better debater. Cheer extends to every part of life, whether you realize it or not. And when you really think about it, it only does good.
I could honestly write pages and pages about why you should not quit cheer. I tried it, and listen to me when I say that it is not worth it. As every cheerleader knows, the work is worth it, but what happens when you stop the work? All-Star cheerleading has broken me down, left me devastated at times, and it still makes me sore. But you know what else it has done? All-Star cheer made me determined, it made me confident, it made me a hard worker, it made me a team player, it made me strong, it made me fight, it made me believe, and it made me who I am. It’s easy to say goodbye when you still have time left, but you won’t always have time left. There will be a day when you have to say goodbye and won’t have the option to come back. I was lucky, I realized what cheer has done for me and knew I couldn’t move on to the next chapter of my life without finishing what I had started.
As a graduating senior I will leave you with this: do not let what you have already sacrificed go to waste. There is nothing out there that will make you feel what All-Star cheerleading does. Treasure each season, each practice, because what you put into this sport and what you put out on the mat, will stay with you forever, even though your tumbling might not. So if you are thinking about leaving All-Star cheer, remember why you started in the first place, remember who you were and look at what you have become and how much you’ve grown.
Spend the rest of your cheer career enjoying it, don’t worry about the demands, because when you look back on your time as a cheerleader you won’t even remember that. I guarantee you that you will look back on these moments and smile because, at the end of it all, the work was worth it.
Alex Diaz, a senior cheerleader who took a year off and now wishes she had just one more year.