by MEGAN ROMANCZUK Staff Writer
A sport that requires the strength of a weight lifter, the coordination of a dancer, and the grace of a gymnast, competition cheer has raised the standards and became its own sport.
Cheerleading has evolved over the many years it has been around. A few years ago, cheerleading was all about yelling chants to pump up the crowd at football games, but is now more competitive.
Competitive cheerleading has the same amount of physical fitness required of a football player, basketball player, and a baseball player combined. Many teams are in the gym four to six days a week working out, practicing, stretching and conditioning for upcoming performances or competitions. Unlike many sports, competitive cheer is year round with small breaks in between seasons.
Due to the long hours of practicing and conditioning, cheerleading has become one of the most dangerous sports. Children ages 5 to 18 admitted to hospitals for cheerleading injuries in the United States jumped 10,900 in 1990 to 22,900 in 2002. Some injuries include strains/sprains, soft tissue injuries, fractures, dislocations, concussions, and closed head injuries.
The routines in competitive cheerleading, known as all-star cheerleading, are two-and-a-half minutes of music-pumping dance and executed cheerleading stunts mixed with gymnastic moves. They perform standing back flips and full layout twists.
Cheerleaders also perform lifts and tosses. This is where the “flyers” – one of the few girls lifted and thrown in the air, held by two bases, a back spot and front spot – requires strength and cooperation with other teammates. The goal is to be the best with no flaws.
“People say cheerleading is easy, but those people have no idea that dedication makes perfection and perfection makes things easy. All the years I did cheerleading I would come home crying, sweating and in pain but it helped overall,” said by junior Bryanna Rutzler.
For cheerleading to be a definite sport, it has to have competition against other teams, and cheerleading has many prestigious competitions that rank from states to nationals. However, two of the most prestigious competitions are NCA located in Dallas, TX and Worlds located in Orlando, FL. Cheerleaders from all over the world fly to these competitions to compete with the best.
Cheerleading requires athleticism, but also money. With a monthly fee of $150, $35 for half-hour private lessons, $20 for two hours of open gym and $15 for an hour-long tumble class with instruction, cheerleading can become expensive.
Some cheerleaders attend private lessons, at least two open tumbles a week, paying more than $400 a month just to use the gym. Flashy competition uniforms cost approximately $300 each and bows are another $25.
On top of expensive uniforms, cheerleaders pay for three sets of practice uniforms that are $120 total. Along with cheer sneakers that run between $80 and $100, travel fees are $200-$500 per ticket for each girl and at least one parent, plus two to three nights in a hotel for $150 to $250 per night.
The bare minimum cost would be $6,700, but for a cheerleader who takes private lessons and regularly attends open tumbles, the price is closer to $13,000 for the year. Although it is expensive, it is worth every penny.
“Cheerleading has been in my life ever since I could walk. I can’t imagine doing any other sport because I gained mental strength and other qualities like leadership that will help me throughout my life”, said junior Kaitlin Grassi.
Cheerleaders spend most of their time at the gym to chase perfection of a two-and-a-half minute routine. They overcome fears and push themselves to be the best they can be. They do it to win a trophy or to become a national champion. They do it for the friendships, the mental strength, and the physical strength to perform skills they worked on since they were younger.
Competitive cheerleading is about the journey to challenge yourself, even if it means blood, sweat and tears. Even when you get hit in the face, kicked in the stomach, break some bones, get too many bruises, and yet still get up to do it again, that is competitive cheerleading.