What Makes a Good Cheer Role Model?
As cheerleaders our children spend countless hours in the gym perfecting their skills. While they are self-driven motivated athletes, there are people in their lives that they look up to that provide that extra dose of inspiration to keep them focused on their goals and aspirations. These people are coaches, other athletes in the gym, friends, teammates, or even cheerleaders from other gyms. No matter who they are they fill an important role in our child’s life all the same as a cheer role model and mentor; a strong influence in shaping the person they strive to become someday. Athletes perceive and interpret their athletic experience based on the leadership they receive, as well as their ability to perform well. These important people in our children’s lives can have a huge impact on their goals and how they perceive themselves and their community. Individual athletes look to their role models and mentors for leadership and encouragement within the sports environment and beyond, and this carries over to every aspect of their daily lives. Young people develop as the result of many experiences and relationships they go through in life. Role models play an important role in inspiring them to learn, overcome obstacles, reaching their goals, and understand that positive values can be lived each day.
This led me to ask the question- What qualities make a person a good cheer role model?
In my research, I came across this quote that said it best. “True role models are those who possess the qualities that we would like to have and those who have affected us in a way that makes us want to be better people. To advocate for ourselves and our goals and take leadership on the issues that we believe in. We often don’t recognize our true role models until we have noticed our own personal growth and progress. We recognize true role models by the impeccable qualities they possess which we would want to emulate in achieving our own personal growth, success and progress.”
I would like to share this study with you which was conducted among young people who identified the top five qualities a role model should have.
- Passion and ability to inspire.
This was identified by far as the greatest attribute a true role model must have for the young people. Cheerleaders value passion in their role models and are inspired by it. True cheer role models show great passion for their sport and have the ability to infect others with their passion. Their passion is simply contagious. It rubs off easily to others and inspires them to work even harder themselves. Elizabeth Ryan, cheerleading/gymnastics coach and graduate student at Washington University, says “A good role model is someone whose behavior is imitated by others. Someone who shows respect and self-discipline. It's important to demonstrate these qualities by being on time, never quitting, finishing what you started, and not backing off when things are challenging. But most importantly you need a smile and a good attitude.”
- Clear set of values
True role models live their values in the world that is full of phonies, corruption and compromise. Young athletes admire people who act in ways that support their beliefs despite the obvious pressures in the world to do otherwise. It helps them understand how their own values form part of who they are and how they might seek fulfilling roles as adults later in life. True role models stand for a set of beliefs. They understand clearly that, “if you do not stand for anything you will fall for everything.” Morgan Fairley, founder of Muddy Cheer Challenge, says “Being a good role model is realizing that eyes are on you 24/7 whether it be in person or through social media. Whether you believe it or not some child somewhere may be looking up to you (especially if you're in a child industry!) and it's our responsibility as older peers and influences to set good examples: I.E: sharing, manners, hard work, confidence, compassion and most importantly respect!”
- Commitment to their team as a whole and to serving their community
True role models are other-focused as opposed to self-focused. They are usually active in their communities, they give their time freely (i.e. volunteerism) and use their gifts, talents and blessings to benefit other people. These people reach out to their neighbors in need, take their civic duties seriously, participate regularly in democratic elections and are active members of community organizations.
- Selflessness and acceptance of others
This quality is related to the other quality mentioned earlier that role models show a commitment to their communities. Young people admire people for their selflessness and acceptance of others who are different from them. True role models embrace diversity and promote social harmony. They protect, defend and support the underdogs. They act out the quality of a Good Samaritan to those who are less privileged in society. They give others a break in life without expecting anything in return. They act on people’s needs without seeing social barriers. They are never afraid to get their hands dirty helping others out. They serve all with pride. Abby Belcher, founder of Abby’s Pledge, says “It's Time for a Change..and you CAN make a difference. One child at a time.”
- Ability to overcome obstacles
Young athletes admire people who show them that success is possible despite obstacles and setbacks in life. They admire people who have gone through suffering, pain, rejection, failure and still continued to rise from the dust. They are inspired by people who persevered through hardship. Young people detest anyone who has bribed his/her way out of hardships and went through life lying, cheating and stealing without facing and tackling their obstacles head-on. They value hard-work and sacrifice. They develop the skills and abilities of initiative in their own lives when they learn to overcome obstacles, whether it’s a mental block in tumbling or something in their personal lives.
Last, I asked some cheerleaders from across the nation to share with me who their cheer role models are and why.
Noel C., a 9th grade cheerleader at University Cheer Air Force, states her cheer role model is Jenee Beth Cruise. "Jenee is an amazing role model because she keeps her faith in the plans the God has for her. She allows her faith, hard work and dedication to be a guiding force by striving to be her personal best every time she steps on the mat in the gym or at a competition." Jenne has inspired Noel in several ways. She states "I try to do my best when I am in the gym or competing, but sometimes I lose faith in myself when I don't do as well as I want. When I see people like Jenee go through similar struggles and not let it affect her performance, it helps me realize that I must keep giving it my all because that's what God wants me to to do."
Tessa R., a 6th grade cheerleader at CheerXperience S4 and SM Coed 5 says her cheer role model is her coach Geno. "He is a good role model because he has been cheering for over 15 years, knows so much about cheer and is always willing to help me and others. He has shaped me by being the strict but fun coach he is and by teaching me the right way to do things."
Peja R., a Pre-K cheerleader at CheerXperience says her cheer role model is her sissy Tessa "because she is always at the gym and helps me."
Nicole S., a 9th cheerleader at Cheer Central Suns says her cheer role model is Cassie Craig. "She has been an inspiration to me because she helps me through the tough times in cheer and picks me back up. In December I was in a group chat with her, and we became fast friends, we face timed and finally met at worlds."
Sharee M., an 11th grade cheerleader at CheerXperience says her cheer role model is her sister Sarah. "She has always been there for me no matter what, and to see her open a gym at 21 and continue to keep it open each year getting more and more kids has been such a good thing for me. Sarah always makes sure that all of our athletes feel comfortable and happy in the gym. She has the biggest heart out of anyone I know because she puts everyone before herself. She has given me a good guideline to what I should do with my life! She has always made sure that if I don't work hard in cheer or in school nothing good will come out if it, or if I have an attitude she makes sure I understand that I need to tone it down and relax, just to take a moment and breathe to think about the situation at hand. She has basically been my role model since I was a yougin!"
Amanda S., a 9th grade cheerleader at All-Star Revolution Liberty says her cheer role model is Ashley Wilson. "She's a good role model because she's very determined and works hard. She's both flexible and a great tumbler. Almost always is she working on new skills trying to better herself. Also, she doesn't just post when she does good but when she has mistakes, it shows that even if you're great you will still have some mishaps. She's shaped me to who I am today by making me determined to become a better cheerleader. I want to be both a good tumbler and flexible as she is. Also, her being close to my age shows that anything is possible and helps me to keep striving to become better."
Amber, a 10th grade cheerleader at CheerXperience says her cheer role model is Jamie Andries. "She's an amazing cheerleader with a beautiful heart. She strives to become a better cheerleader every day even though she's already one of the best and it makes me want to work hard too."
Camryn Y., a 5th grade cheerleader at University Cheer Air Force Air Force One says her cheer role model is Kiara Nowlin. "Her hard work, dedication to her sport and her willingness to do clinics or camps to help others makes her a great role model. In order to be more like Kiara, I know that I have to always have my head in the game, always work hard or be focused and always strive to be helpful to others. I feel that I am becoming more like her every day in these areas. I try to involve myself in programs where I can help. I also love to be in the gym working as much as I can. Now I need to get closer to her skills…lol."
Armani F., a 7th grade cheerleader at Victory Athletic says her cheer role model is Gabi Butler. "She makes a good role model because she works very hard and she pushes herself. She inspires me to not give up when something gets hard."
Thank you to everyone who contributed to this article. I have some closing thoughts by legendary cheer mom, Sharon Taylor. "With the huge influence social media has on the cheer community, it is no surprise that today’s cheerleaders have reached well beyond the athletes in their gym to create their new cheer role models. Most cheerleaders become familiar with other athletes and teams via videos on Youtube, statuses and competition updates on Twitter and endless pictures on Instagram. Many of these athletes become role models because of their team’s popularity, their power tumbling, amazing stunting abilities, fierce dance moves or commanding presence on the mat. A good cheer role model is one who embraces the enormous influence their social media behavior has on hundreds or thousands of other athletes. This level of maturity separates the good cheer role model from the “cheerlebrity,” one who may be more interested in their own infamy than their influence over their followers on social media. Being conscious of the fact that younger, impressionable athletes seek to emulate their behavior, the good cheer role model presents a positive image of themselves, their team, their gym and the sport, while interacting with others on social media outlets. In my opinion, the socially conscious role model, who is not only an amazing athlete, but is respectful and seeks to motivate those who follow them, possess the characteristics of a leader and a true cheer role model."
Sources: TLF Leadership Foundation, Livestrong.com, Google Images