Adolpha at Cheerleading Practice

Tonight I entered the hallowed halls of my former high school for the first time since 1990 and I about broke out in hives.  The high school years were not the best for me and I am definitely not one of those people who would love to relive those "glory" days.  Instead, I gave that school the bird as I peeled out of the parking lot on my last day and vowed never to return.  Tonight I had to break that vow.

Not only did I have to venture back into that den of douchebags and dipshits, I went because I was bringing Adolpha to a cheerleading clinic.  The irony is not lost on me.

Some of Adolpha's friends signed up for this clinic and they asked if she'd like to join.  Adolpha has been telling us for years that she'd love to be a cheerleader and I keep re-directing to her to anything but.  I don't know why exactly.  It's not like the cheerleaders were any more horrible to me than the girls' tennis team.  I guess it's because when I think of cheerleaders I think of everything I am not:  girly, perky, bendy, and like totally adorable with soft and silky hair that bounces just right when they jump.  I couldn't avoid it any longer.  I want Adolpha to have fun with her friends and she might as well try cheerleading with some friendly faces surrounding her.  I took a deep breath and wrote the check.

I told a friend today that I was taking Adolpha tonight and that I wasn't looking forward to it.  She replied, "What's so bad about cheerleading?"


"Nothing, I guess," I said. "Except my Friday nights will be spent in a stadium or a gym watching someone else's son play a sport just so I can see my daughter encourage him to play better.  That sounds horrible to me."

I tried to keep an open mind since I knew Adolpha was excited.  As we drove there I told her, "We're going to my old school.  I used to go to high school at this school."

"Really?  Do you think any of your friends are still there?" she asked.

"I should hope not!  They'd be pretty stupid if they were still there.  It's been over 20 years."

"Wow, that's a long time," Adolpha said.

"It sure is," I agreed.

We entered the school and we were greeted by a gaggle of girls with enormous bows in their hair and short skirts.  "I assume we're in the right place for the cheerleading clinic?" I asked.

"Of course!  Come on in!" was the perky (of course) response.

The girls had their clinic in the lunch room.  The lunch room is probably my least favorite part of that entire school.  I can remember entirely too many lunches where I either ate alone or in the bathroom, because I wasn't in the mood to be ridiculed for eating alone.

My only fond memory of the lunch room is the day I met Steve.  He was a new student who transferred in our junior year.  I found him hanging out near the bathroom looking for an escape route as well.  We bonded over our mutual hatred of most everyone around us.  Steve is still one of my closest friends and he is the only thing that got me through my time in that place.

I gulped down the bile in my throat and found a place where I could watch Adolpha "shake her tail feather."  (Yeah, they danced to that song.)  I've mentioned before that Adolpha is not a graceful girl.  Tonight was no different.  When everyone went right, Adolpha went left.  If they stretched up, Adolpha crouched down.  At one point she was doing her entire routine facing backwards.  (Yup, that's my girl!)  She never seemed to care that she wasn't very good.  She enjoyed learning the routines and spending time with her friends.  She liked all the attention she received from the teenagers running the clinic.

When it was over and we were driving home I asked her, "Did you have fun tonight?"

"Yup."

"Do you like cheerleading?" I asked, dreading the answer.

"Yeah, it's OK."

I felt a twinge of hope.  "Do you like cheerleading better than soccer?"

"No.  I like to kick the ball better than yelling."

Yes!  That's my girl!

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45 comments:

SanH said...

I have to admit I always wanted to be a cheerleader, but in my high school there were no team to cheer or cheerleader squad. Of course my wants might have been crushed as well because I am not very coordinated either.

MoreThanMommy said...

Hi Jen!

I really liked this post. I also hated high school, and used to eat my lunch in the band room. Actually, I pretty much spent every second I wasn't in class in the band room, so you can tell I was really cool.

I feel very much the way you do about cheerleading. It bothers me that while there is often a great deal of athleticism in the activity, the focus somehow always turns to bows and skirts and midriffs. I mean, if you just wanted to be flexible and athletic, wouldn't gymnastics be a more legitimate option? You hit the nail on the head when you said it's "watching someone else's son play a sport just so I can see my daughter encourage him to play better."

I also think you are a fantastic mom for letting your daughter give it a shot and find out if she liked it or not. If you had railed against her and started a giant battle over it, she probably would have liked it all the more. It's awesome that she likes "to kick the ball more", and you were supportive enough to let her discover it on her own. Good for you!

Anonymous said...

"Except my Friday nights will be spent in a stadium or a gym watching someone else's son play a sport just so I can see my daughter encourage him to play better. That sounds horrible to me."

Thank you! This sums up my feelings exactly! I've so far been to steer my daughter away from cheerleading and I'm hoping I can keep it that way!

Anonymous said...

As someone who has spent years and thousands of dollars on therapy due to my high school experience, I can relate. My 20 year reunion is coming up this spring, and I think I would rather have my toenails ripped out with pliers than attend. My 5 year old is also interested in cheer, dance and gymnastics. I am working diligently to get her interested in Tae Kwon Do.

Anonymous said...

I have never attended a HS reunion. I had a GREAT High School experience though. I was involved in a lot of clubs and activities and was fairly well-liked (except for a few people, like that girl who thought I was with her boyfriend that weekend and I really was but I played innocent and lied my way out of getting my ass stomped in Alabama history - THAT was a close one). But, the people that I care to know where they are now, I still communicate with, even if it's just a Christmas card every year. Facebook has made that easier to do too. But, I'm sorry, there are just a bunch of bitches and over inflated egos there that I care NOTHING about seeing again. So, I feel your pain, I would probably go back to my 17 year old self if I had to walk back into my old HS. Thank God I live in a different town and my child will NOT go to the same school I did.

Kristin said...

I am in your boat- I could've written this post as everything in it applies to me. I also just wrote that damn check for my daughter, and I am so so glad to hear that I am not alone, and I agree- letting them try it is the right thing to do (shudder).

nikki said...

Hell I dont even want to watch my own kid playing football..!! ugh...

I grew up in Oz so the idea of someone standing on the side lines jumping up and down in a skimpy skirt is strange to me..
We would watch movies with cheerleaders in it and think..... why????
Specially when you would have the crowds to cheer on the players.. why put sex on the side lines?? cus lets face it... thats all those girls are... just sex on the sidelines..

ErinMSW said...

I was a cheerleader. I was not perky or bendy, nor did my hair fall "perfectly" with every bounce. I did it because I enjoyed it - my friends were on the squad, I have always like sports and went to the games anyway so why not get some exercise while I was there? There is much more to cheerleading than jumping and yelling and bows and skirts and midriffs. I learned a lot about myself and I think it made me a better, stronger, more confident person.

I think trying to steer your daughters (or sons) away from cheering just because of your misled preconceived notions is unfair, and you are doing them a disservice.

ErinMSW said...

Just to add - high school SUCKED for me, with the EXCEPTION of cheering. Cheering was where I found my sanity and my comfort. Outside of the squad, the girls in my high school were horrid and treated everyone other than their "clique" as though they were not worthy of licking their boots. The squad was the only place I felt like I belonged.

Anonymous said...

Oh, but the drama and politics surrounding small town cheerleading would give you blog fodder for months! You'd be miserable but what about us, the readers? :) Encourage the soccer!

Maya said...

"kicking balls"...total awesomeness. GO Adolpha, GO!!

Sarah said...

I was a cheerleader from 6th grade till my junior year and I had a lot of fun doing it but high school was no picnic for me either. Just because I was a cheerleader didn't mean I didn't get picked on or bullied, trust me. I totally get what you are saying about going to watch other people's kids play sports just to see your kid, my mom was the same way, and her and I had a deal one or two games a season and at least one competition. That was good enough for me, I wasn't about to make her sit through a sporting event she hated all the time, if you've seen it once you've seen it enough.
Another poster said there is a lot more to cheerleading, and she's right there is, and if you have a good group it can teach you a lot of good lessons. BUT, there can be a lot of drama and politics,so to each there own I guess, but it might not be to bad.

Anonymous said...

You are a better woman than me. I told my daughter she can try cheerleading when there's an all-boy cheerleading squad cheering an all-girls athletic team. Fat chance. Enjoyed your post.

Anonymous said...

ErinMSW - I wasn't a cheerleader, but I think you nailed it when you said with them you felt like you belonged. As long as you have one group (or even a person) to be on your side, you can survive. I DREAD having to send my son's to junior high soon...is there a bigger Hell on earth than jr. high??

Anonymous said...

I am by no means a cheerleader by stereotyping standards, but both of my daughters were Pop Warner Cheerleaders and they were amazing at it. They loved it and I loved watching them. When they cheered at the Football games it was of course to cheer the team, but it was also used for practice. The cheer teams compete in competitions against other towns and both of my girls made it to National Competition at Disney consecutively. Some of the football coaches made sure that the players came to the competitions to cheer on the girls. It was a really good community feel. However, as the girls got older, they realized that some of the other girls were getting petty and mean. They decided 2 seasons ago that they no longer wanted to do it. It wasn't fun anymore. I have to say that the moms were no better sometimes. Only a handful of them though. I do miss watching my girls cheer because they were so good at it, but it was a HUGE commitment time wise. I guess what I am saying is, that the little girls just have fun and are pretty friendly with all the other girls. Let Adolpha enjoy it now. It's when they get older.....

Julie said...

Hee hee - I could very much relate with your post (esp the second sentence). But I would encourage you to try out a reunion. I still keep in touch with my close friends, but there were other people that I had a wonderful time catching up with. People I'd known since elementary school who I had in class who were a little shyer or quieter and weren't in my immediate group of friends but who I was still friendly with in high school. It may surprise you.

kimberleeR said...

I do feel your pain -- my daughter has been cheering for Pop Warner since she was 6 years old and I, too, am the exact opposite of the stereotypical cheerleader. But I have to say that it has done wonders for her confidence and she has learned the value of hard work and dedication at practice. I wouldn't trade that experience for anything, and for sure, some (certainly not all) of those "Cheer Moms" would provide hilarious material for your blog.

cakeburnette said...

I see both sides of this issue. I forced my daughter to be a cheerleader in the 2nd grade because she was such horrendous PAIN IN MY ASS during her brother's youth rec league games (it was to basically be a glorifed babysitter--I paid to have someone else deal with her during games and couldn't have cared less if she sat on the bench and pouted, which was a definitely possibility with her). Strangely enough, she enjoyed it and decided to start taking cheer tumbling lessons, which sadly led us to the sport (yes, it truly is a sport, albeit a drama-filled one) of competitive cheering. Where we live, 7th grade-JV cheer is both competitive and game cheer, but next year as a sophomore she will transition to strictly game squad we hope.

Of course, I have both a cheerleader AND a football player, so for our family it is super-nice to have them on the same sidelines for games, and she's cheering on her brother and her friends. But for her and I, who both actually ADORE watching football, it's a way to be a part of a game she enjoys and a way to actively show support for the team. And we have a wad of "NAKED BOYS" who show up to our all-girl sports events (they don't wear shirts and paint letters and stuff on themselves to support the teams)--volleyball and softball--so even if they aren't "official" our school IS blessed with a squad of boys cheering for our girls' teams!

Shelley in So. Illinois said...

I never had a problem with cheerleaders in HS. I was friends with a few of them-still see one in church every Sunday. I did choir and music stuff and they did cartwheels and flips. It was all good.

Then I had a daughter (and three sons). The boys wanted to play football and their dad REALLY wanted them to play football and Hey! there was cheerleading too. So I signed the girl up. Everyone was occupied! Wonderful.

Except that I started hating the cheerleading. The instructors and other girls were fine, I just suddenly realized that all I was saying to my strong-willed, independent daughter was that sure, she could be in a sport whose only goal was to cheer for the real sport. Hated that. Plus, she would practice with the boys in the backyard and my husband kept saying that she was better at football than the boys were. She could follow directions. She focused and did her best at every play. The boys? Not so much.

The next year I even asked her if she would want to play football. There is a girl on one of the older boys' teams. She would still kick those boys bottoms all over the field. But I think she is having fun reading uninterrupted for an hour on Tuesday nights.

I have no problem with anyone else putting their daughters in cheer. I just can't do it to my daughter.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I soooo agree. Those cheerleading Moms are insane! You would have so much material for your blog, you wouldn't know where to start...Yay soccer...or volleyball, or lacrosse or ANYTHING else!

Jenna @ Sharing My Jennarocity said...

I think as a parent, you really have to make sure that you take your own past and opinions out of it and let kids do what makes them happy. Do I hope that my daughter was a nerd like me? I hope she is a beautiful nerd with a good sense of humor and is nice to people. I hope that she hangs out with kids who are good influences on her and that make her feel good about herself and not bad about herself. I hope that she knows everyone is different and its OK to be different. I kind of want an Ann Heck :-) Do I think all of those qualities can come from cheerleading? Who knows. My sisters were both cheerleaders and those girls were very anti-stereotypical cheerleaders. I guess you just have to let kids do what they do and hope for the best!

Anonymous said...

I did cheerleading all the way through college. But, not only did I participate in Cheerleading but, other sports at my high school. I think if you enjoy being athletic and being on a team then you should strive to which ever one you enjoy. As for cheering for only the boys teams, In high school AND college we not only cheered for the boys teams but, the women's teams as well. Women's basketball and Volleyball. In college our women's basketball team was much more fun to cheer for because they won all the time! If the whole cheering at games is an issues try club cheer. It is strictly cheering at a competition level. There is always that option. I believe that sports is a wonderful way to build confidence, friendships, hard work, accountability and teamwork. As for the drama that everyone puts on cheerleading...don't be fooled people. You have drama no matter what club or sport you're in. It's all on how you handle it.

Starr said...

I've got a short list of absolute "no-can-do" activities and cheerleading tops it. I'm really hoping they'll all be captain of the math squad.

khoward said...

I was a cheerleader through college but I can tell you I was one of the more "unpopular" cheerleaders. I didn't date any jocks or go to any of the jock parties, and I think for the first few years all the other cheerleaders kind of hated me because I was an outsider invading their turf.

And being a cheerleader doesn't mean you can't also be smart. You could be a cheerleader and captain of the math team. I took AP classes in HS and was still a cheerleader. A few of us were in that category.

Cheerleading made me feel confident and strong and athletic, which was nice because I wasn't at all good at what are considered "real sports"- field hockey, soccer, basketball.

My daughter is in dance and gymnastics so I wonder if cheerleading will be a natural extension of that. I won't push it, but I won't fight it.

Jamie said...

I agree with ErinMSW! I was a cheerleader because I WANTED to be athletic and couldn't because of my asthma. I couldn't play other sports and I was not perky, bouncy or had perfect hair!! I found my place there and eventually joined a competetive team and competed nationally.

I'm sad that you've placed this age-old stereotype on the sport...yes if it's coached well, it's a SPORT! It taught me confidence & leadership and got me through high school. I had a terrible high school experience too.

I applaud you for allowing your daughter to explore her options, knowing she would figure it out on her own if it wasn't for her.

Kathleen said...

The one thing I feared most having girls was the possibility that one would be a cheerleader. So, of course, I have a super-cute, perky, silky straight blonde haired (we both have curly dark hair, what's up with that?) girly-girl who loves gymnastics. It's like she was genetically engineered to be a stereotype. So far, she's more into the tumbling and hasn't shown too much interest in cheering, but I know the time is coming. Karma is so annoying.

BTW, I'm trying to convince her to join the circus instead.

Confessions of a PTO Mom said...

I, too, hated high school. I am glad the reunion beasts haven't found me.

And I, too, am wary. I've seen my daughter look at cheerleaders. I'll most likely be joining you.

Meredith said...

While I'm not all that surprised that you're anti-cheerleader, I AM a little taken aback that you were the high school girl you just described. Don't know how I pictured you exactly, but that's not it. I wasn't thinking the perky cheerleader type, but still one of the popular kids. I think I envisioned more of a "Why don't you just fuck off" type of chick. You know, kinda like Rizzo from "Grease". Minus the slut factor. I don't get that vibe at all.

Anonymous said...

My neice was in cheerleading in HS and yes she was awesome but it was very time consuming (in and out of school) and very expensive. My sister told me of what she had spent so far (over $1,000) and I was like like hell no! I would rather have my daughter study and read and get an education from school. That's why they are there. If by chance she would want to do it I would make her pay for it. Mean, I know, but what a great chance to learn responsibilty and the value of money. That's all. Thanks :-)

Anonymous said...

I was a cheerleader in high school and college. I am not the perky type. In fact, people can't believe I was a cheerleader when they meet me. But there is so much more to cheerleading now than "encouraging" the team. It involves stunting, tumbling, dancing, etc. It's quite athletic. And while the girls can be bitches, I think the opportunities I received (i.e., being courtside for the NCAA tournament) far outweighed dealing with the drama.

Unknown said...

I had almost the exact same experience with my daughter just about 9 years ago (she is 17 now). She has played soccer since the age of 4 and at around 12 wanted to try cheer leading. Like you, I cringed at the thought of my daughter cheering but figured she was right around that age where being popular and being "girlie" is the thing to do. She is not graceful either - we are talking about a child that actually fell out of a chair... while sitting in it. I didn't want to sway her either, so I kept a very neutral attitude. I also asked her if she liked cheering better than soccer and she said, "I got absolutely nothing out of that. What a waste of a season". I was so glad she had the chance to try something new, but even happier that she found what she really enjoys.

Krysti said...

I didn't mind high school, but I certainly didn't love it. I made sure to spend as much time as possible at my dance studio with my dance friends, and between my school friends and dance friends, I talk to only two HS friends compared to all dance friends.

I have always had an intense dislike for cheerleaders, probably unfairly. At my high school they were terrible and tried to claim they were dancers, and as a dancer I was offended. I'm sure all cheerleaders aren't as terrible as the ones we had were, but it's left a permanent distaste in my mouth for them lol.

I vote getting Adolpha into dance, it helps the klutziness...I'm so ungraceful OUTSIDE of dance, my nickname is Grace.

Anonymous said...

Did you really just say "I would rather have my daughter study and read and get an education from school"??? Some of the smartest and most educated girls at my school where on cheerleading. Hey, and news flash....you can get a full ride scholarship to college for cheerleading. Gasp....there's no studying and reading there.....

Peanutlayne said...

I will admit..I was a cheerleader, BUT I was one of those grouchy, non perky ones who only joined because I was told it was similar to gymnastics and I was a former gymnast. I was the one who the rest of the squad rallied to get kicked off the squad because I refused to hang up glittery posters all over the football player's lockers to "show team spirit". Barf! Now my 13 y/o wants to be a cheerleader and I find myself groaning.

Kerri A said...

I graduated one year after you, so am of the same generation.

My Dad absolutely flat out refused to let me be a cheerleader, for the exact reason you eluded to in your post. He told me to pick my own sport and play for myself - I wasn't allowed to go and cheer on boys at their sports.

It really bothered me at the time, but looking back on it now I am so, so glad that he made me play my own sports and not cheer boys on from the sidelines.

Sounds like Adolpha might get there on her own and maybe that's the better way, but I know that I won't let my daughter be a cheerleader and she'll get the exact same reason I was given!

Meredith said...

I was in show choir in high school before Glee made it cool (although my performance experience was absolutely NOTHING like that - to say nothing of the high school experience). All I remember of the cheerleaders is how darn exclusive they were and how they flaunted wearing their uniforms to school. That being said, I plan on giving my now 2 year old daughter exposure to everything she shows interest in. Right now she loves music and loves to dance, so we're doing toddler dance. Maybe she'll keep it up, maybe she'll go toward sports. I'll try hard to keep my predispositions out of it...we'll see in a few years!

Anonymous said...

Your daughter could be both. They're not mutually exclusive activities.

Anonymous said...

All sports (yes, that includes cheerleading) are time-consuming, and I challenge you to find a sport that doesn't cost money. Many extra-curricular activities are more expensive than cheerleading. Also, you can cheer and get an education. I was a varsity cheerleader and in National Honor Society.

Kelly and Sne said...

Well, I guess I probably shouldn't mention to you that I joined the Pom Pon squad while I was in high school. Not because I was perky and wanted to 'fit in.' Rather so I could dance (LOVE to dance), get dates and smoke and drink in the woods behind the school with the squad before the football games... It is probably a good thing that Adolpha doesn't want to do that.

Anonymous said...

Agreed!

Unknown said...

First, Jen...props to you for not letting your opinion on cheerleading prohibit your daughter from exploring something she's interested in. On the other hand, shame on most of the moms here-blatenly denying their children because of their own HIGH SCHOOL insecurities-you sound like jealous teenagers! Let your kids choose their own likes/hobbies and stop shoving yours down their throat. My daughters are 9 & 6, while they haven't asked to be cheerleaders, when/if the day comes, that's up to them because they are not me, they are individuals and I want them to explore all their options and not resent me for not allowing them to follow their dreams.

Anonymous said...

Alot of cheerleaders don't enjoy gymnastics. As a former (college scholarship) cheerleader and current competition judge, I can tell you that cheerleading and gymnastics are very different! Gymnastics is more focused on tumbling and performances using equipment (vault, uneven bars, beam), where cheerleading focuses on stunting (pyramids, basket tossing), formations, and jumps. I love to watch gymnastics, but I could never do it. The two sports are totally different, and each takes just as much talent, focus and determination as the other. They are not interchangable.

Wendy at Taking the Long Way Home said...

Your post made me sad, because I too struggled with high school. I was a "late bloomer" and lacked any kind of confidence, and like a pack of dogs, the mean girls sniffed it out. By my sophomore year, I started to find my groove and things slowly improved. But I hated the cliques. Interesting tho, that this crap still goes on in my real life...at work, in my neighborhood. High school is truly a metaphor for life!

BTW, my oldest son is a freshman in high school. For better or worse, he has acquired my cynicism and is adjusting nicely to the trials and tribulations.

So did I tell you about... said...

My daughter wanted to do cheer clinic when she was nine. All her friends were going, so she figured it would be a chance for an extra play session. As we are walking in at 7:30 a.m. on a SATURDAY morning, we are greeted by two bouncy cheerleaders. I say to my daughter, "If you decide to be a cheerleader, you would get to wear a skirt like that." She nods and says, "yeah, only I don't want to be a cheerleader." I stifled the urge to shout, "Then why in hell are we here???!!!"

Oni no Tenshi said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8AvAiUFFCyo

This basically sums up my thoughts on cheerleading.

Cheerleading has turned into gymnastics without safety equipment. I wouldn't allow my kids to do it because it's horribly unsafe and can lead to all manner of nasty, life changing injuries, including a broken neck.

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