Friday, April 5, 2013

Cheer...as in Leading...Crazy Stuff!

About a month ago, I met up with a long, lost childhood friend.  We had gone to school together all the way from grade 1 to high school graduation.  And that was the last time we saw each other.  Years went by, she moved, I moved, she started a family, I left the country.  I came back and soon discovered that both she and I were living in Ontario.  She was coming to my city for the weekend with her daughter who is one heck of an athlete and was in a huge competition that weekend.  One of the many sports she competes in is cheerleading.

Yeah, yeah, go ahead and roll your eyes folks, I know you don't think "athlete" and "sports" belong in the same sentence as "cheerleading".  That is because you have not seen what I saw that weekend!

These kids are fierce!!  This is a sport that is not officially recognized as a sport, apparently.  I am sorry but if bowling and golf are considered sports and this form of team extreme gymnastics/acrobatics is not, there is something seriously wrong in the world!

I was a cheerleader in high school.  The kind that got the crowd going and cheering for their team.  Not the same thing at all as what I watched that weekend.  These were not school teams...not by a long shot!  These were kids who put in hours of blood sweat and tears pushing and fighting their way as a team, to the top.  Literally.

They train.  Hard.  Harder than a lot of athletes I know in other sports.  They could be classed right up there with professional hockey players, I am sure, with what they give to this sport.  And they are not getting paid.  Anything.

When I watched that competition, I couldn't believe the discipline, the toning, the trust in fellow teammates and the injuries!!  Wow.  In competition, there were bodies flying through the air and caught flawlessly.  There were flips and splits and complex choreography that was mind-blowing.  All of it timed perfectly and some of it looking like it might be pretty dangerous if anyone's timing was off.  And in between sets, there were kids walking around with both ankles strapped from sprains, elbows in braces, ice packs on necks, shoulders and legs, not to mention the bruises on practically every limb I saw!

During the competition, we watched a girl land not so perfectly but get right up like nothing happened and complete the set with blood running down the side of her face, smiling and not missing a beat until they were done and she was carried off (I would love to see a pro footie/soccer player ever have that staying power!).  I watched another girl only use one hand when in formation with her teammates lifting another girl in the air...she continued like that, with a big smile, until the end when teammates and coaches swooped in (so smoothly I actually thought it was part of the formation for when they were leaving the mats) and carried her off in their arms and that is when I realized she had dislocated a shoulder partway through the performance....but kept going anyway!  I know several full-grown athletic, physically strong men who would whimper at a hangnail and not have half the gumption this slender teenaged girl had!

My friend's daughter was able to show me several bruises on her arms and legs that she often doesn't recall getting...that is just the way it goes in cheerleading.  She is quite an accomplished athlete; she does cheerleading, soccer and some other sports that I cannot recall.  She feels quite strongly that cheerleading is just as tough and sometimes tougher than some of her other sports activities.  I was pretty amazed at how hard she trains her body for cheerleading.  She really blew me away when she told me one of the things she does at home to train for cheerleading is to do a handstand, against the wall for stability, then lower herself down (still in a handstand) and raise herself back up.  Basically, vertical pushups!!  What?????!!!!  Pushups...in a handstand....crrrazy!

I guess it is pretty obvious that, after seeing that competition, I feel pretty passionate about it as a sport.  It just seems insane many don't consider it to be one.  Those people need to go see what it really is all about.  Even 30 minutes of watching this would leave one's jaw on the floor in awe.

What do you folks think?

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