Welcome to the World of Cheerleading
Dear Cheer Parent,
Welcome to the World of Cheerleading! You are in for an amazing journey full of glitter, bows, and spirit sticks. Whether your girl is cheering for games or bringing it on the competition floor, the sport of cheerleading is glad to have you as a part of our growing family.
The first thing you need to do is get familiar with the rules for your cheerleader’s team. Every program is different. A recreational cheer team is going to be much different than an All Star competitive team. There are going to be rules specific to your team (such as a dress code, behavior code, and practice rules) and rules set by the governing body for your program. Those rules will cover the types of stunts and cheers allowed, and if competing, routine time limits and requirements. You don’t need to memorize them, but they will help you understand the sport better. If your daughter is competing, it will definitely help you see why one team may score higher than another.
Even though she will have teammates and coaches, the most important thing to remember is YOU are her biggest cheerleader. She is going to be learning to jump, tumble, stunt, dance and yell. Beyond that she is going to be learning how to trust – trust herself and her team members. She is going to be learning how to be a part of her new cheer family. She is going to fall many times, so she needs someone to help her get back up. She is going to get bumps and bruises. She is going to need someone to comfort her. She is also going to need someone on the sidelines, cheering for her. That person is you.
You’re going to need to learn a new language! Herkies and preps and pendulum swings – sounds like you’ve landed in a foreign country! Everything is going to be exciting and new to your cheerleader so learn her language so you can talk to her about it.
She’s going to need stuff. Oh, the STUFF! Shoes, bows, socks, skirts, shells. And then practice shorts, shirts, camp outfits. And a bag to put it all in. Yes, cheerleading is expensive! It’s going to be important for your cheerleader to sport her team colors, so support her in that! Don’t forget to buy your spirit wear too! It’s important that your cheerleader fundraise and help earn some of the money for all the stuff. It will help her feel more team spirit and she will value her accomplishments all the more.
If you can volunteer to help, please do so. The teams need a lot of family support! You can make cookies or small gifts for the team, help with fundraisers and organize a parent spirit group. At the cheer competitions the crazier and more spirited the parents are, the better! So don’t be afraid to break out the light-up sign and the noisemakers. They are cheering their hearts out for you, and they will feel so much more confident knowing you are supporting them from the sidelines.
Although cheerleading isn’t quite like it is depicted on reality TV shows, it does come with its share of drama. Do what you can to diffuse it, and certainly don’t add to it! The other girls on her team are her teammates, and they all shine or they all fall together. There are going to be bases, flyers and back spots. Each one is unique and important! Please don’t push for your daughter to be one or the other. Allow the coach to do his or her job. Whatever role she is in, help her to see how important she is to the team.
You are also going to be her biggest advocate. Not all cheer programs are fair, and not everything they do is in line with your values. It’s unfortunate, but true. Keep an eye on the outfits, the way the coach treats the cheerleaders, the way the girls treat each other, the type of dance moves and the other parents. Don’t be pushed into anything you’re not comfortable with, or your daughter isn’t comfortable with. There are a lot of different programs around, so make sure you’ve chosen one that fits who you are.
Finally, enjoy this adventure. There is nothing like cheering under the lights, hearing the crowd yell and your heart beating to the music. It’s an experience your cheerleader will always remember. Your heart will be beating as hard as her’s. Cherish the moment.
Sunni Wheeler is a cheer coach, cheer mom, and a former cheerleader. She started an All Star team at her local park district and they are in their 5th year. She also coaches a competitive tumbling team. She has been coaching gymnastics and cheer for 25 years!
Years ago she wrote a column for Suite101 about cheerleading. She has a background in advertising copywriting and journalism, and retired from that after 10 years in the business so she could spend more time with her family.
She has a new baby daughter and is coaching less this year in order to be home with her. She really loves helping other cheerleaders and their families so writing blogs is a good way to stay connected with the Cheer World while she stays home with her baby.
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