Cheer Season Is Dead, Long Live Cheer Season
As some may remember from my last blog post on Recess, I’m the cheer dad, the guy who delivers his daughter to cheer practices and waits for her–in the tiny slum of a waiting room–while she kills herself prepping for her many cheer competitions.
The last competition was a few weeks ago. It had been fairly stressful season and as we left the arena I was happy the girls won but I was looking forward to a break. Yep, with the last event in the rear view mirror there would only be a few more practices and then my daughter (and I) would get a chance to rest. We could enjoy a long, restful…week.
That’s right. A measly week.
Remember the movie “A League of Their Own” about how women in 1940’s played professional baseball while the male players were off fighting WWII? In the movie, Tom Hanks’ character had a famous line “Are you CRYING? There’s no Crying In Baseball.” Well the competitive cheer version is “OFF SEASON? There’s no off season in cheer.” And there really isn’t, not when tryouts for the new season start roughly seven or so days after the end of the first.
It’s more than just wanting a break from driving her to practice, although that is a pain (We live in the far western edge of Summerlin and the gym is about a block from I-15). The real problem is competitive cheer is a tough sport and this past season was hard.
If you’ve never seen competitive cheer just get pom poms and the go-fight-win high school cheer stuff out of your mind (though there are competitions for that as well). Competitive cheer is far more athletic and asks a lot more of the girls with multiple tumbling runs featuring all kinds of gymnastic flips, stunts, large complicated human pyramids, and tightly choreographed dance routines.
And they don’t call it competitive cheer for nothing. During Lauren’s first season in cheer I saw the reaction of the coaches and other parents when the team placed second. Nobody was rude or demeaning but it was very obvious from the reactions that at this gym, at least, second place just doesn’t cut it.
The competitiveness doesn’t only come from the coaches or the parents. The girls are always pushing themselves harder. I saw an amazing example of exactly how hard this past season. During a competition in Anaheim, girls in another team from my daughter’s gym crashed into each other while doing back flips. It happened so fast it was hard to see exactly what occurred. But what really stood out is is how immediately after the impact the girls kept going. Despite some really bad injuries they did their best to finish the routine.
One of the girls I saw managed to perform for a few more seconds before stumbling off the floor and collapsing. The other one kept cheering, hopping into a stunt where another girl held her in the air, all while blood was dripping down her face. She would have kept going but the coach stopped the routine. Other girls were hurt as well, those were just the two I saw. An incomplete list of injuries included torn rotator cuffs, bruised ribs, multiple stitches and no doubt several minor heart attacks suffered by parents watching from the stands.
This should help you understand why I was looking forward to a break. The sport is very competitive. There’s a lot of pressure and last season was especially long and hard. My daughter injured her back in tryouts and spent the first half of the season in pain during every tumbling run. We skipped practice until we thought it was safe but the pain lingered on.
And her team…well they really are a great group of girls. But for some reason they just never gelled and there were far more second places than firsts. In an effort to fix the problems the coaches had the girls stay longer than scheduled, usually a half an hour longer, for almost every practice.
Lauren was not happy with the longer practices or with her team’s performance.
Of course it was rough on her and I felt bad for my little girl. But driving from Valley View to Charleston and 215 twice a week at 10 p.m. with an overtired, injured teenager who’s angry about how her team is performing and who still has homework to do is it’s own special kind of scary. Drives home from competitions southern California after a loss were a little less tense but quite a bit more disappointing.
Now with tryouts just a few days away our short break is nearly over. The big question now is will she make the team she wants.