What ties a competition routine together? The music, right? So if a cheerleader can’t hear her music, how can she stay in step with her team?
Mariah Green makes it happen. Although she has had hearing loss since birth, and has two cochlear implants to help her hear, she has learned to cheer, stunt and tumble. She’s a Fort Zumwalt South High School varsity cheerleader and a member of a competitive team at Cheer Legendz.
Mariah’s mom, Sheri, enrolled her in a cheer basics class when she was 8 years old.
“She had tried swimming, gymnastics, soccer and dance,” Sheri says. “She loved getting on stage and being the center of attention, so I enrolled her in (the) class.”
And Mariah fell in love. Three months later, she was on the competition mat.
While every cheerleader uses those eight-counts to keep in time with their routines, for Mariah they’re even more critical.
“It’s hard to stay on time with the music because sometimes my magnet comes off and I can’t hear,” Mariah says. “When this happens, I watch my teammates to ensure I’m on the right count and when I get a chance, I try to feel the vibration on the floor to get on time with the beat. Everyone counts, but the eight-count is even more important for me, because sometimes that is all I have to rely on!”
Coach Anthony Best credits teamwork with Mariah’s success.
“Mariah’s teammates have been amazing,” he says. “When the routine starts, there is always one athlete that helps her to know the music has begun. They treat her with respect and know that she will always do her part in the routine.”
Communication is key in any coach-cheerleader relationship, and for Mariah and her coaches, it takes an extra step – but not any extra-special treatment.
“We always coach Mariah the same way that we do the other athletes,” Coach Best notes. “The main difference is that we know we have to look directly at Mariah when giving directions to the entire team. Mariah is also very good at making sure she stands next to a coach when the team is being talked to as a group.”
Like every mom, Sheri is proud of what Mariah has accomplished, both in the cheer gym and out.
“Mariah is the only one at her cheer gym with a hearing loss, but that doesn’t stop her,” Sheri says. “She has made a lot of friends throughout her cheerleading career in her gym and other gyms in the St. Louis area.
“I’m so proud of Mariah for pushing through the challenges of her deafness to do something she loves,” she continues. “Her perseverance, hard work and determination always impress me. I never thought I would see her do a back handspring, let alone a standing back tuck or a layout!”
Mariah has some advice for other athletes who are deaf, but it’s great advice for every athlete.
“Believe in yourself and work hard and you will achieve your goal!”