You know you’ve heard this throughout your cheerleading career, “You’re going to miss these tough moments when it’s all over… you’ll want to be back at practice, back on the sidelines, back on the mat…. just one more time…..”
Now we’re in has-been heaven, reliving the glory days in our heads, asking ourselves if missing cheer will ever get easier. I’m here to assure you that it does (well, once you learn to embrace the transition).
Maybe you’re graduating from your own team soon, maybe you’ve had an injury that will never quite recover, or maybe you’ve just finally decided to stop trying out for the US National Team. However your career ends, saying goodbye to cheerleading can be a tough pill to swallow.
*Pics are from Jan. 2015, my last year competing for the best school (Hofstra University), the peak of my cheerleading existence*
The graceful approach out of cheerleading happens when you realize that so many people have felt or are currently feeling the same way. It’s common to want to stay active in cheerleading as you’re getting older, but feel that life is encouraging a different path. Choose the better route for your future, regardless of nostalgia.
Here’s my best advice, immediately and for the future (being 4 years out of cheerleading in college, 2 years since last competing for the US National Team) when you begin to transition into a “former”:
• First, come to the realization that cheerleading, like most sports, has a shelf life. Your adult body may not be able to handle the wear & tear that it could before. If most people your age aren’t still competing, it’s likely that the intensity of cheerleading is not in the best interest of your health. Not everyone is destined to tumble forever like Josh McCurdy!
• Give back. Be the alum you wish you had (or did have if they were great)! Continue to support your old teams– whether it be your school, gym, or country. Staying involved with your spirit program fulfills your new cheerleading void while creating a new, legendary name for yourself. Hofstra always had a strong alumni presence and it made a huge difference throughout the season.
• Act and speak like nobody knows who you are. Even if you did something really cool in your day, don’t have the expectation that everyone will remember your skills or what team you were on (this one’s mostly for the newer “former cheerleaders”). This summer I was asked who’s national/partner stunt/world championship rings I was holding (they were all mine lol). You can’t possibly be known to everyone… so post your #tbt’s and reminders, as all of us do, but remember how big the cheerleading world is. Your contributions to cheerleading HAVE positively impacted a lot of people in this community– let the new kids do the same and embrace their success!
• Do not, under any circumstances, voice negative opinions about other teams after you’ve graduated. Talking about current athletes makes you look like an old, lame alum who has nothing better to do than live in the past and bring others down. How unfortunate would it be to be remembered as that, instead of an awesome cheerleader of your era?
• Remember that your body is absolutely going to change when you slow down— THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR YOUR FUTURE! Accept this unavoidable fact early on and make the adjustments. Your weight will fluctuate as you transition your level of activity, and you will probably lose a lot of cheer muscle after a year or two. I felt that my body was becoming thinner at first (yay!), but I soon turned into a very SOFT version of myself, making me feel horrible when I looked in the mirror. You can avoid my mistake if you never stop being active.
• Find an activity or hobby to replace the time cheerleading has been taking in your life. Since cheer is an athletic activity, I would advise filling an hour or two per day with something fast-paced, beneficial, or interesting for you. That’s what we’re all used to! A lot of people enjoy gym classes (Pure Barre, Soul Cycle, Core Yoga, or Orange Theory to name a few) whereas I like to hike mountains and go to Planet Fitness for my own workouts.
• Lastly, if you really can’t give up cheerleading, (or don’t want to– that’s okay, too!!) consider staying involved by judging or coaching locally. If you have a passion for this industry, imagine the effects you can have on others just getting into cheerleading now!
The funny part of this particular blog is that I still do cheerleading (as my career, coaching over the summer, helping teams all year) and STILL miss it sometimes… but I can say that I miss being on a team less as I mature more into an adult. Looking forward to the future can be just as fun as cheerleading– and now I get to be a professional instead of an athlete.
I hope that if you’re missing cheerleading (especially on a weekend like UCA College Nationals) that you can find peace in progressing past your youthful athletic careers. Discover the joy in supporting the new era of cheerleaders & knowing way more than they ever will!
-choreographer/judge/staff ksex lol