[A warning to Anna and Brianna – I’m giving my opinions here, which you are both well aware of]
A little background: I have always hated the stereotypical cheerleader image – most of the cheerleaders at my high school in the late ’70’s had no significant thoughts in their heads other than their clothes, their hair, or their boyfriends. They jumped around, shook their “pompoms,” and yelled a lot, but being a strong feminist, I was unconvinced that they were doing anything to help our cause!
Fast forward to 2005 – Anna (who was eleven at the time) wanted to join the cheerleading program at our local community center. Other than occasional summer art camps, she wasn’t participating in any other extracurricular activities – I reluctantly gave my permission. Because she’d never been in it before, Anna was placed in the “Mini” group – she was the tallest girl there. Practices were Saturday mornings from 9 to 11. Since the centre was about four blocks from our house, Anna could walk there on her own. More than once, she came back because practice had been cancelled, and the teenage coaches hadn’t bothered to call us. The lack of organization irked me.
I remember the first time I went to a competition. At that time, it was customary for all the girls to wear “hairpieces” (or a “dead animal”, as I used to call it). This mass of fake ringlets was the same colour as their hair, and was pinned to the back of each kid’s head, so that they’d all look alike (it came in a vinyl case, which resided safely in my kitchen drawer). It cost $35, which was a lot of money for me (did I mention the $90 sneakers?)! I took the bus to one of the local high schools, arriving just before 1 p.m., when the competition was slated to start. Being a big invitational tournament, all the seats in the bleachers were taken. I ended up standing for a while, and finally sitting on an extremely uncomfortable chair as the pulsing “music” and screams of hundreds of kids assaulted my senses. I sat for 3 hours enduring endless routines (watching teenage girls do moves I’d only seen in Britney Spears videos made me nauseous), before finally giving in to the demands of my bladder…the ladies’ room had two stalls (and no toilet paper – thankfully, I had Kleenex in my purse). There was a line…I was gone for twenty minutes, just long enough to miss the performance of my daughter’s squad! I nearly cried! I attended three or four more competitions (being careful to get there early to get a seat), but was thankful when Anna gave it up after a couple of years.
When Jim and I got together in the spring of 2008, his daughter, Brianna, was also involved in cheerleading at her middle school (she was 12). Anna and I started going to some of her competitions with Jim. Things had changed for the better in three years…hairpieces were out of style, and the sexy dancing had been replaced by more age-appropriate movements. No one used pom-poms any more. More emphasis was being placed on the athletic part of the sport. Brianna’s team had three practices a week from September to May, and more near competition time. She rejoined the team for the 2008-2009 school year – they won the provincial middle school championship – all that practicing paid off! Hope’s and Anna’s schools didn’t have cheerleading teams that year.
When the new school year rolled around, Hope joined the cheerleading team at her new middle school, Anna’s high school had decided to have a cheerleading team, and Brianna was still doing hers…our practice schedule included seven practices a week at three different schools! Since I don’t have my driver’s licence, Jim used to get off work early on Tuesdays and Thursdays so that he could rush home, pick up Hope and her friend, and have them to school for practice at 5:00! (Devin also had tech crew at least two nights a week – poor Jim was running every night!).
At Christmas time, Hope’s school decided to discontinue cheerleading – there was some fundraising issue around uniforms – Hope was angry, because they had put a lot of hours in practicing. I was upset for her, but relieved to have two practices off our schedule!
The older girls continued on their teams…competition season started a few weeks ago. This past weekend, we had Anna’s on Saturday and Brianna’s on Sunday.
We spent Friday evening looking for Anna’s “spankies,” the little Spandex shorts they wear under their skirts – these cost between $15 and $25 each depending on the style. She wanted me to run out and buy her another pair, but my natural stubbornness kicked in…I kept looking until we discovered them in a pile of unfolded laundry.
Anna’s competition went by quickly because only six teams were there…thank goodness…my arthritic hips can’t tolerate those hard bleachers for very long! The high school mascot (a bee) kept the crowd entertained between performances with enthusiastic dancing and interaction with the squads. A couple of girls had ice packs on various parts of their bodies – several had knee or ankle braces. I saw one crying girl being led away by her mother after she’d been injured. Anna’s team was not among those called back by the judges…one of her teammates looked away from her flier, and cost them 20 points – Anna was not a happy camper!
Brianna’s competition was held at another high school – the gym floor had been covered with a foam puzzle mat, which didn’t look very thick. Seven teams competed, but it was a long afternoon – the judges were deliberating carefully after every performance, and there was no mascot to keep the crowd enthused. I was sitting sideways, trying to keep my knees from poking into the people in front of me…they didn’t have similar consideration for my comfort…I lost count of how many times the teenage girl reached into her back pocket for her cell phone, and collided with one of my body parts! Her mother actually reached into her purse and inserted some sort of dental appliances into her mouth – ewww! The father was oblivious to the fact that he was half blocking the “steps” for the bleachers, forcing people to maneuver around him as they gingerly made their way down.
I saw more near-misses at that competition than I’ve ever seen…in one routine, I saw the same flier nearly get dropped twice, and then she almost got knocked over by a bigger girl (fliers average about 80 lbs.). Every mother in the audience caught her breath in horror when another flier came within a foot of hitting that thin mat with her head before her quad caught her! My heart was in my mouth! Thank goodness my girls aren’t fliers (Anna is a back, Brianna is a base). Neither of them has had any serious injuries, but I worry about it all the time – Anna inherited my klutziness (one of her teammates suffered a black eye recently). Brianna has jammed her finger, and been scratched when her face came in contact with a falling flier’s braces.
We have another back-to-back weekend with an “away” competition in two weeks – provincial middle school championships are in St. Stephen this year, an hour-and-a-half drive – not sure if I’ll go or not.
I’ve offered to teach them to crochet instead, but nobody’s taken me up on it!