Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cheerleading and Such

When I was in college, I was afforded a rare and unlikely opportunity. I got into cheerleading. Now, I know what everyone out there in cyberspace is thinking; "this guy has to be gay". And I can understand that. After all, that is a pretty common nomenclature associated with male cheerleaders. But in all honesty, it was the hardest thing I ever tried to do in my life. I was never so sore, or so injured, or so tired as I was after having a practice or cheering a game.

When I graduated, naturally, I wanted to stay involved on some level with some team somewhere. It was in my blood now and nothing else I had ever undertaken was nearly as challanging. As luck would have it, I managed to get in with a local area high school as a slot opened up for a coach. I was met with dubious looks from faculty, staff, and parents but was chosen due primarily to my experience.

When I met the girls and found out what their regiments of practice and training entailed, I was annoyed to say the least. It was no fault of the students, and ultimately, it wasn't really even the fault of the coaches. But "coach" was not the term that best fit the situation. The would- be coaches were really more of advisors. They were teachers in the district that had been cheerleaders once upon a time at some level, primarily high school, so they brought little to the table as far as new skills. All they knew was what they learned years ago, and even that was hazy. Once again, not their fault, but like playing a game of telephone, the information becomes more and more garbled. What was really unfortunate, is that the girls weren't allowed to stunt, except at non-conference games and events. By stunt I mean pyramids, basket tosses, or if we had any guys at our disposal, even a little one on one partner stunts. So while not only were the girls ground bound, but few of them had any idea how to tumble and once again the current coaches were not at all equipped to teach such skills. My outlook on cheerleaders always was that they were most definately athletes, and my time on a team strongly reaffirmed that. But prohibiting stunts and the inability to teach tumbling confines cheerleaders to the prehistoric stereotype of jumping up and down on the sidelines and yelling with no other purpose. And if that's all you're doing, I got news; you're not an athlete anymore.

Here's the rub; in my cheerleading career, I broke my nose 3 times, took 15 stitches, had more bruises then I care to remember, and usually had a sore or pulled something or other. I broken nose, all stitches, and a lot of pulled or sore muscles came from the tumbing, not the stunting. The injuries that I befell from stunts came from me trying silly garbage or move that were entirely to advanced for me at the time and were usually preceeded by the phrase "hey watch this". The point is this that tumbling is every single inch as dangerous as stunting for all parties concerned. You risk injury every single time you make a tumbling pass. So why is it that tumbling is a fine and well an good?

Odd analogy time; cheering is like a gun. Injuries or even death come when there is no respect and overwhelming curiosity. I have had friends that have had loaded and accessible firearms in their houses their entire lives and never once had any safety issues. There was never any curiosity, and there was always respect for something so potentially dangerous. Stunts and tumbling can be sorted into a similar, but more generic vein because as curious as participants are, they will never be taught the proper, entertaining, and safe way to do any of these things. It's sad. It is sad to me that because would-be coaches are so unfamiliar, incapable, or so far removed from these activites that they can no longer teach, future generations will not learn. And because they will not learn, they miss a huge amount of the fun, excitement, work, and reward that cheering has to offer.

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