Photo by Kate Zuverink
Story by Olivia Schroeder
Picture the scene of 29 high school cheerleaders dangerously lifting bodies into the air on one leg with one girl in the back, getting ready to perform a skill that could paralyze her for life. That girl was my friend Madison Spanopoulos on August 19, 2019, and it was one of the scariest days of her life.
Keep that picture in your mind, but now we should talk about something else. I have accepted that I will never know or understand why most people believe that cheerleading is not a sport. I have been a competitive cheerleader since I was seven years old and have completely fallen in love with it. Although cheer will forever have my heart, as all things do, cheerleading also comes with a few down sides.
To name a few, constantly being injured is a weekly occurrence, hearing people make hurtful comments such as “Cheerleaders are weak” or that “Cheer is not a sport” does hurt a lot. Most athletes have put their whole life into this sport and others, such as Madison, have even risked their lives.
Now we will return to that previous scene. As Madison began to take her first running step, everyone was cheering her on loudly and encouraging her to do well, but as soon as she jumped to flip, everything went downhill. She flew high into the air, but panicked and came crashing to the hard floor, landing on her back. That day, I watched my friend’s eyes roll to the back of her head, and I watched her get carried out by a stretcher as tears rolled down my face.
Thankfully, Madison woke up with only a concussion, but when she came back to school, people were not supportive of her. Students started to say that just because someone got hurt, it still does not mean it was hard work.
Cheerleaders, specifically our team, have worked incredibly hard to get where we are today, putting in countless hours of work each week throughout the year. The sport is not just reciting chants for our school. There is a whole other side that is more serious and dangerous. We practice for five to six days a week and, yes, it is tough, but we love every minute of it. When we hear people saying that the activities we do are easy and that it is not a sport, it affects us because the passion that we have worked so hard towards our whole lives for is being disrespected. We have suffered broken bones, torn muscles, back problems, head issues and many of us, even surgeries because of the amount of work we put in.
Nobody will know how dangerous cheerleading is, or what it consists of until they have experienced it for themselves. We respect your sport. Now, why can you not respect ours?