Cheerleaders Are Athletes, Too.
Lauren is 20 years old and cheerleading is her favorite sport. Her diagnoses of depression and anxiety have always held her back from many aspects in her life like making friends, staying motivated, and even attending school- but her passion for cheering has always stayed the same.
Lauren’s cheer team meets bright and early for practice at 6am, three days a week.
She has learned to balance her time between completing schoolwork and working her part-time job to make room for cheering, but says it’s still a lot of stress to take on for a busy college student like herself.
Lauren tells me, “Just because we [cheerleaders] wear sparkly outfits and makeup, people think cheering isn’t a sport, but I work just as hard as any other athlete does”.
Despite the 6 hours a week that her team spends practicing, Lauren puts in even more time outside of practice to work on her skills and be the best she can be at her sport.
Every morning, Lauren stretches for 20 minutes to improve her flexibility and keep her muscles from getting stiff.
Lauren’s dedication thus far has paid off for her, as she is the center flyer in her team’s routine. Despite the anxiety she feels in social situations off-the-mat, being the center of attention in her cheer routine is one of the greatest feelings she’s ever experienced, she says.
When asked how cheering has impacted her life, she tells me it’s her alternative to conventional working out and keeps her in good shape, but has also helped her mental health more than anything else
She says she no longer has time to feel sad because whenever she isn’t working, she’s cheering or at the gym, and that keeps her distracted.
From the perspective of her family and peers, cheering has “increased her confidence and really helped her come out of her shell”.
Lauren plans to try out for a local All Star cheerleading team in a few weeks, and has hope that her skills will be good enough to make a level 5 team.
Until then, she will continue working hard and doing what she loves.