Monday, November 27, 2006

Hey! Ho! Let's Go!

I was a cheerleader in high school. I jumped around, did the splits, yelled until I lost my voice, had shin splints and sprained my ankle so many times I lost count. Yes, I did all that shit.

It was fun being on my squad. There were only six of us-- two sophmores, two juniors, and two seniors-- me (the gawky, goofy one), Yay (the deeply tanned, drop-dead gorgeous one), Nicki (my best friend and Yay's little sister), Willie (the sly, mischevious one), Taco (the brainy, no-nonsense one) and Phelps (co-captain with Taco, beautiful, outrageous, and our homecoming queen that year). We were a tight little unit despite our obvious differences, probably because we spent so much time together as a result of traveling together, practices and the dozens of games at which we cheered.

Cheering at my school was a relatively serious proposition. There were camps, there were clinics. There was practice everyday after school until 5:00 or 5:30, with two-a-days before the state cheerleading competition. There were bake sales. There were pep rallies. There was travel to games, sometimes over 100 miles away, and sometimes on weekends. There was football, wrestling, volleyball and basketball season, all of which we attended.

The biggest pressure, though, came from the accomplishments of previous cheerleading squads at my school, because for the last decade, they'd brought home the 1st place state cheerleading trophy each year. We didn't want to break that streak, and we didn't; we won the trophy that year despite the fact we didn't have a coach and Willie broke her arm two days before state, falling off of a mount.

Keeping in mind my background-- tonight, out of morbid curiosity, I watched a show on TLC called "Texas Cheer Moms". Well... all's I can say is, they've got a cheerleading freak show going on down there in Texas.

The girls' moms go to practices. They actually sit in the bleachers and watch their girls practice cheering. The moms have matching red jogging suits that they all wear to cheering competitions. They call the coach and advise him how he should coach their girls to get the best performance out of them.

The coach is just that-- a cheerleading coach at the school. He doesn't teach and coach-- he was hired specifically to coach the cheerleading squad. Apparently this particular school district has money to burn.

The assistant principal attends cheerleading practice too. He has private meetings with the coach, and says things to him like, "I'd really like to see that first place trophy in our case along with all the others."

It was a trip watching this show, because these folks are soooooooooo serious about cheerleading. Our parents came to games to watch us cheer, but they certainly didn't wear matching sweatsuits (thank you Jesus) and attend our practices-- no one was allowed to watch us practice. As I mentioned, we didn't have a coach that year for a couple of reasons, and our school district certainly didn't hire someone to step in and coach us. Phelps' dad was the athletic director and videoed us a couple times, but that was about it. I can also say that no pressure was applied on us from the school faculty-- we put the weight on ourselves to do well. It was just fun and challenging, that's all.

I feel sorry for those girls on that show. Since when did something like cheerleading become a do-or-die proposition? What is all this input from the parents on how the coach should do his job? Why do they spend so much money on cheering at this school? Why do they say "ya'll"?

Clearly, I'm missing something.


Anonymous said...

I love this post! It reminds me of the good old days; remember how scared you were the day you tried out, but how you kicked butt in front of the whole school? You were so cute! You should add an addendum to this post however: the part about the state (basketball?) finals where you and Phelps got busted by her dad. And make it into a cautionary reminiscence for everyone out there, how kids back in the g.o.d. were AFRAID of adults, and kids now don't even bother to be.
--the Redhead

T-Bone said...

Yeah. Nicki, Phelps and I were busted drinking in our uniforms the night before the state football game. Three injured players had a hotel room at the town where the game was going to be. They had a bathtub full of beer, whiskey, etc. We went down there and boozed it up with them, and Phelps' dad busted us, giving us the laser-beam stare, pointing his finger in our faces and growling, "YOUR ASS IS MINE." God. We were terrified!