Cheerleading is more than shorts skirts and yelling “go, team!”
Like any other college student, I complain about school, work, life and any other thing I can think of. As a college athlete, I also complain about my sport: cheerleading. I complain about the time commitment, the uniforms we have to wear, the late practice times, and everything in between. I complain a lot, but I do not know what I would do without it.
The sport has helped shape me into the woman I am today. I never realized how much I love cheerleading until this year when it was taken away from me and I had to choose to leave it or live with a lot of pain.
When I got back from Tampa Project in July 2018, I went my first summer practice of the season. I stretched, warmed up and started stunting. Within 15 minutes of stunt practice, my flyer fell on my right shoulder. I was in serious pain. Something happened and I knew it.
My coach called the trainer and he thought that I just sprained a joint in my shoulder and told me to refrain from using it for about 10 days and I should be fine. I was not. There were times I was not able to sleep at night because I was in so much pain.
My kidneys were sore to the touch because of my constant rotation of ibuprofen and Tylenol. I finally went to the doctor and they thought that my collar bone was broke despite X-rays not showing a break. I was given steroids to help with the swelling.
When I got back to school in August I was still in a lot of pain. My coach, thankfully (at the time I was not so thankful, but I am now), still had not let me start tumbling or stunting again, although I was dying to.
I went to another doctor with a trainer and he tried the same thing, X-rays were still clear and this time I was given a steroid shot, and for those who know me well know I cannot handle shots, so there were plenty of tears that day.
Three weeks later I returned to the doctor not making a lot of progress, my strength in my arm was coming back little by little but I was still hurting and very swollen. We decided to get an MRI in September, and the results revealed I had torn a ligament in my shoulder.
While I was comforted in the fact that something was wrong and I was not being a baby, what was I supposed to do?
We had two options, and neither of them was ideal. I could get surgery and tie the ligament back to my arm and have limited mobility for the rest of my life and be out of the cheer for at least six months, or I could manage the pain.
This was October now, four months after my initial injury. I was learning to deal with it, doing rehab to strengthen my muscles around it, and stretching it to make it feel better.
I decided after all this time that I could not waste any more. Cheerleading is my first love. It brings me so much happiness and I missed it.
I was absolutely terrified of surgery and knew my career as a college cheerleader would probably be over if I had it. I decided to be an athlete, and an athlete pushes and never gives up and never gives in.
Honestly, I am in pain every day, especially since we are in the heat of nationals season. My shoulder wants to give up, a lot. But I have been seeing just how tough the human body is, it will not give up if you won’t.
I cannot expect my teammates to bounce back from a fall and keep pushing if I do not; that would not be a very good leader. So I persist because I want to be there and I want to work hard with my teammates and I want to be a better cheerleader.
Cheerleading is hard, way harder than people give it credit for. We tumble and stunt and jump and yell and fall, get back up again, and do it all over again the next day.
Our bodies are put under tremendous pressure. Instead of lifting weights, we lift humans. You cannot drop a person if they get too heavy if it gets too hard you cannot just give up. You must be willing to sacrifice your own body to save another person’s life. The strength it takes to flip your own body is phenomenal and a complete marvel.
Cheerleading is more than short skirts and yelling, “Go, team!” It is hard work, it is dedication, it is family, it is my sport. I am willing to put myself on the line and battle through the injury because I love my teammates and I love the sport and in the end, the work, pain, and commitment are all worth it.