Reading time: 4 minutes.
There’s a lot to be learned in every team sport, and participating in one is beneficial for one’s social skills at every stage of life. Especially for children! Growing up in a team environment has a great impact on their personal development. Here’s why cheerleading is a particularly awesome sport when it comes to building character.
A shared goal
If you put 25 people with the same passion, the same devotion and the same goal on a mat, great things happen. You build a community – your team becomes family. They help you push through hard times and laugh with you when you’re happy. Lifelong friendships can build through the course of a season.
If you surround yourself with people you look up to, you will inevitably emulate their behaviour, thus getting closer and closer to being the best version of yourself. The team can help you find success and pick you up when you’re down.
Pushing personal boundaries
A season on a successful cheerleading team is hard, mentally and physically. You’re always expected to give 110%. You will learn to push yourself, be it in a workout, fighting for a stunt or breaking through mental blocks. Your team relies on you, and your coach pushes you to your personal best. This competitive drive expands your limits, giving you access to mental strength that accompanies you through your whole life.
Not only physical endurance is built during cheer practice. If you sign up for the season, there’s no way out: you’ll need to own up to your decision and finish it. Losing a member in the middle of the season can be devastating for a team.
Everyone has moments where they think: “I can’t do this anymore.” Cheerleading will teach you to push through those moments. You will learn to plan ahead and organise your life so that even when times are stressful, your team can always rely on you.
Social problem solving
When things don’t go your way, tensions can get high in the gym. Maybe you have an off-day, or you just can’t do that flip that you and your coach know you’re capable of. Maybe there’s tension between team members, or you feel like you’re the one always being criticised the most.
But the gym is not the place for bickering. The person you have a problem with could be your very own base, the one you rely on to catch you. There’s no room for mistrust there. You’ll learn how to talk things out, communicate your feelings openly in a helpful fashion and find solutions for your problems.
You could even have a situation with your coach that makes you uncomfortable. The gym is a safe environment to learn how to raise concerns with a “superior” through constructive feedback. Especially for young women venturing into the working world for the first time, this is a valuable skill.
The balance between teamwork and personal development
Even though you’re constantly working with your team to get better together, cheerleading involves a lot of personal skill as well. Every athlete needs to work out, stretch and practice their tumbling and jumps. All of this can and needs to be done alone. In the end, if you decide to work just a little harder than everyone else, you can have an impact on the scoresheet. This is where you can shine and be a real asset to the team. If you work hard enough, you might get a moment in the routine where all eyes are on you, because you’re the only one who can pull off a skill that will improve everyone’s score.
Now this is a very hard, but equally important lesson to learn in life. A cheerleader is always expected to put their team first. If you’re looking for a sport to feed your ego, cheerleading is definitely not it.
Sometimes, you’ll have to take a step back and make a tough call. I’ll explain with an example. Let’s say you have a tumbling skill that you worked hard for. You really, REALLY want to show it at championships – but it’s inconsistent. A week before competition, your coach takes the skill out of the routine, and naturally, you’re upset! But if you look at it from your team’s perspective, it makes sense. It might be better for your final score to leave that skill out instead of performing it poorly.
In such a moment, you need to accept defeat. This doesn’t mean your journey ends there. Take a few weeks, go over your technique, do some strengthening, and get right back at it. Cheerleading will defeat you over and over again, but if you keep fighting, you’ll conquer these skills, and the win will be so much sweeter.
The last point I want to touch on is the behaviour cheerleaders display at competition. Believe it or not, we’re rooting for the other teams – even if they directly compete against us. We’re fully aware that they worked just as hard as we did, and they deserve to have a perfect performance.
Also, nobody wants to win a competition just because the other team had a rough day. We want to compete against them when they’re at their best, to see where we really stand. In cheerleading, you learn to appreciate your competition for what they do for you: They set the benchmark for you to reach. Or maybe you set it for others to reach. That is for you to decide.
The challenge is on
Not everyone is able to handle the pressure or enjoy the benefits of cheerleading. But all these situations the sport puts you in relate directly to everyday life. What you learn on the mat will accompany you through school, your job and your relationships. I truly believe that cheerleading can push everyone to become a better version of themselves if they put their heart into it.