So, you’ve made the big move to college. Time to enjoy your freedom, right? Well, yes and no. First, you need to understand how to enjoy it responsibly. There are many dangers college students face, and as a cheerleader, late practices and public exposure may put you at a higher risk. Of course college is about spreading your wings, meeting new people and having fun, but you should know how to protect yourself and avoid getting into any sticky situations. Fortunately, AC’s got 10 tips you’ll need to stay safe and grounded, so you can enjoy your newfound independence!
Safety tip #1: Remember the golden rule of safety: You are not invincible! When you realize you’re just as likely as the person next to you to be victimized, you’ll be more proactive in avoiding risky business.
Safety tip #2: When you’re leaving practice late, make sure to utilize the buddy system—there’s strength in numbers. If you end up on your own, walk quickly, keep your head up and be aware of your surroundings and people who may pose a danger to you. So, put your iPod down and pay attention!
Safety tip #3: If you see someone shady walking towards you, change course. Walk in the opposite direction, cross the street, find a public place where other people are present, etc. You can be prepared to fight back when you’re taken by surprise if you walk with your keys in your hand. Be ready to use them as a weapon if necessary.
Safety tip #4: If you think you may have a stalker or notice someone paying an unusual amount of attention to you, report any strange and unwanted behavior to the police instead of confronting the person. Don’t be afraid to overreact. If you feel uncomfortable, report it.
Safety tip #5: Don’t make yourself and your information easily accessible to potential predators. Make sure your online profiles are private, delete any addresses and phone numbers and only accept friends you actually know.
Safety tip #6: Be aware of the many campus resources available to you, like escort programs, campus patrol, emergency call stations, etc. And keep campus safety phone numbers saved in your cell phone so they’re available at the touch of a button.
Safety tip #7: Take a preventative approach by enrolling in a self-defense class. You could even do this as a squad bonding activity! The team that’s safe together, stays together.
Safety tip #8: Be aware of the dangers of alcohol, as with it comes an increased chance of victimization under the influence. If you’re going to a party, be smart about it. Stay with your friends, and make sure you have phone numbers for cab companies or a designated driver. And be sure to let someone (your roommate, resident advisor, parents, etc.) know where you’re going and when you’ll be home.
Safety tip #9: Be careful about your behavior on campus. Remember that you’re always representing your squad, so if you’re engaging in inappropriate behavior, and someone takes a snapshot and posts it on Facebook or MySpace, it could result in public exposure and possibly squad suspension or termination.
Safety tip #10: Watch what you say on yours and other people’s online profiles. Once it’s out there, you can’t take it back. What you post on social networking sites is public and could also get you into hot water with your coaches.
The bottom line: The safer you are, the more you can enjoy your university cheer life. Make sure to leave those late practices with other members of your squad, and never ignore your gut instinct to report something weird. Now that you know how to protect yourself, you can worry about something really scary—Facebooking that cutie you met at orientation!