When making the team isn’t all it was cracked up to be.
By Jen Jones
So you think you’ve got nothing in common with “Laguna’s” Tessa or “Top Model’s” CariDee? Think again. After all, making the squad is kind of like being cast on a reality show! After showing off your unique talents to set yourself apart, you find out you’re special enough to be chosen from tons of hopefuls. Yet once in the spotlight, you might wonder: “What have I gotten myself into?” Though becoming a cheerleader is exciting, there are a number of pesky probs that can pop up after tryouts. Luckily, we’ve got a handy-dandy guide for how to not only survive, but thrive in the “real (cheer) world”
Reality Check #1
The good news: you made the squad. The bad news: one or more of your closest friends didn’t.
Tryouts can be a stressful time, and going through it with your BFF takes the edge off. Yet it’s a bittersweet victory when you’re the only one who ends up livin’ the dream. Take it from Nikki Wells, a 19-year-old NCA instructor and former member of Texas-based all-star teams Cheer Athletics and Pride All-Stars. When Wells tried out for the first time alongside three of her best friends, she was the only one who made the team. “It was really hard because we’d grown up together, and suddenly they didn’t want anything to do with me,” she remembers. “I wasn’t really friends with the cheerleaders before, but they became my new crowd. There was all kinds of middle school drama, and it tore up friendships.”
After tryouts, give your friend some time to make peace with the verdict. She might think it was unfair and even say hurtful things about why you made the squad. Keeping a friendly distance lets both of you collect your cool and focus on the other awesome things you do have in common. Also, give her reassurance—she may be afraid that you’ll ditch her to hang with your new teammates. Remind her that you were friends before you made the team, and you plan on staying that way!
Reality Check #2:
You’re shooting for varsity, but you land on the JV team.
Aiming high deserves lots of props, yet falling short of that coveted goal can leave you feeling low. Whether you’re a sophomore who shot for varsity or a Level 3 cheerleader who was hoping to move on up, it seriously stings to feel stuck. Kellie Brown, a 17-year-old cheerleader for Banks County High School and the North Georgia All Stars, experienced just that when she tried out for the BCHS varsity squad in tenth grade. “I was pumped, thinking I’d done great and had a chance,” Kellie says. Yet when the names were posted the next day, her name was on the JV list. “I knew I should be happy I’d made the squad at all, but I was still disappointed,” she remembers.
There’s an old cliché that “Things happen for a reason,” and in Kellie’s case, the cliché rang true. Kellie was later named captain of the JV squad and loved every minute of it. The fact is that you won’t be able to change the outcome of tryouts, so you might as well make the most of it—or, as another old cliché goes, “When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade!” Use the year to develop some sick tumbling skills or become a fab flyer, and next year you might finally get your wish.
Reality Check #3:
You love cheering, but you’re feeling overwhelmed.
The first year of cheering or being on a new team is a major adjustment. For brand-new cheerleaders, achieving comfort with the sport can be challenging. “One thing that surprised me at first was how much work it took to remember all the moves and words to cheers,” says Kellie. “I had cheered for the rec department, but this was totally different.” Also, juggling a newly packed schedule can tack on extra stress—especially for those on multiple squads. Between school, practice, games and social stuff, it’s a wonder you have time to sleep!
As time passes, you’re sure to fall into a comfortable rhythm with your new lifestyle, but what to do until then? Whether you’re having trouble keeping up at practice or finding time to do it all, be honest with your coaches about your concerns. They’ll likely be happy to help you find solutions—after all, they chose you for the team and don’t want to lose you! And as for remembering all the material, take to heart these three simple words: practice, practice, practice.
Reality Check #4:
Your coach can’t seem to see past your main strength.
Just like any sports team, a cheer squad relies on several roles to succeed: tumblers, flyers, bases and dancers. Depending on what you excel at, you might find yourself pigeonholed into one of these categories. Yet what if you’d rather be a dancin’ diva than a basin’ beauty? Nikki Wells, who was the smallest girl on her squad, found herself being forced to fly when she really wanted to tumble. “My first time going up in a Liberty, I was bawling my eyes out,” Nikki remembers. “Because of my body type, I didn’t have a choice.”
Try to keep in mind that winning is all about teamwork. Without bases, fliers couldn’t fly. Without tumblers, your team wouldn’t have all those snazzy tumbling passes. Coaches must weigh each cheerleader’s strengths and put them together like a jigsaw puzzle. To be a true team player, trust your coach’s judgment and put your all into your role. Nikki agrees; after a while, she embraced her flyer status: “As much as I hated it at first, it made me a stronger person!”