by Kylee Winnett
Whether you’ve cheered for one season or since your pom poms were bigger than your body, all cheerleaders share a common dread of the day they’ll age off of their team. It is difficult to walk away from a sport that requires so much time, money, passion, and dedication- especially if it has been a central aspect of your life for a long time. But, have no fear! All cheerleaders must cope with the aged-out blues eventually, so you’re not alone.
Here are some helpful tips (tried and tested by yours truly!) to make the transition from athlete to alum go a bit smoother.
Seek out an international team or college team.
If you simply cannot handle not being a cheerleader anymore, you don’t have to! Our sport is unique is the sense that we have divisions with no age cap. Do some research on either your home gym or another local gym’s international program. Typically these teams travel a bit less and have fewer costs and fees to help accommodate athletes as they transition to college or whatever post-senior-team adventure they may be embarking on. If college is the next step for you, look into your school’s cheerleading program! Not only will this keep you fit and involved with cheerleading, but it is also a great opportunity to meet new people and get involved on campus.
The best coaches and mentors are people who have experienced the same hardships and share the same passion as those they are coaching. If you had an amazing experience as an athlete, what could be more rewarding than creating that same memorable experience for the next generation of athletes? Plus, what better way to make money than by staying involved with what you love!
Take a trip down memory lane now and then.
If you’re feeling sad and nostalgic, revisiting treasured memories may be just the remedy you need. Pull out those old uniforms. Laugh at the silly competition action shots you’ve accumulated through the years. Watch those old competition DVD’s from your first performance, to the last, and be proud of how far you’ve come. It may jerk out a few tears, but at the very least you’ll find comfort in the countless amazing memories you’ve made as a cheerleader.
Stay in touch with your cheer family.
Perhaps one of the greatest gifts cheerleading brings is the lifelong connections you make with your teammates and coaches. Although you may not see them several times a week anymore, try to keep in touch with your cheer family. Whether it be via social media, having a reunion get-together now and then, or stopping in to visit your home gym during college breaks, just seeing the faces of the people who were by your side for some of the best days of your life will feel therapeutic.
Keep up with the cheer-world.
It’s not unusual for former athletes to keep up with their sports after retiring. Just think of the NFL, NBA, and other professional sports leagues with massive followings. Don’t feel ashamed to keep up with the ever-evolving cheer world. Attend local competitions. Host viewing parties with your other retired pals and live-stream big events like NCA or Worlds. Not only does this help support our industry, but it also provides a sense of belonging and involvement to the amazing cheer community, despite no longer being an athlete in it. Plus, it is pretty cool to see how our sport gets more and more difficult and innovative year after year.
Be grateful for your experience.
This is probably the single-most important piece of advice. It’s okay to be sad that your time in the spotlight has come to a close, but never forget to appreciate how much you loved it while you were a part of it. Most cheerleaders can agree that our sport has played a crucial role in becoming who we are in the real world, and the lessons you have learned and the character you have built from being a cheerleader will resonate in your life forever. Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened!