Some moms dream of the day their child comes home from school, throws down their backpack and exclaims “Mom, I want to be a cheerleader!” Still others are nervous at the thought of their precious little one expressing interest in the sport of cheerleading. This divide is spurred by a misunderstanding about how cheerleading can actually be a safe and positive experience and the potential to lead to college scholarships.
Naturally, safety is always the forefront of every mom’s concern. In recent years the cheerleading community has taken steps to ensure that cheerleading teams are safe. The U.S. All-Star Federation (www.USASF.net) regulates safety by offering coaches credentials in three core areas: tumbling, stunting and tosses. These efforts have contributed to increased safety through proper skill progression and increased awareness to ensure teams are practicing within their abilities.
As an additional safety measure, all-star cheerleading has divided competitors into divisions based upon age, size of the team, gender of participants, and ability level. Levels vary from 4 years of age, up to 18 years and over, and currently include: Tiny, Mini, Youth, and Junior, to name a few. With some programs, kids can start as early as 3 years old!
When cheerleaders are a part of a safe and positive team environment the benefits become endless. They experience teamwork and build confidence while learning to trust themselves and each other. Teams learn responsibility when they are held accountable for their conduct and when they are looked up to as role models in their communities. Since cheerleading has evolved into a sport, numerous physical and mental benefits have surfaced from competing as athletic teams. As a parent you have an opportunity to support your child’s development in a way that will benefit them throughout their lives.
On top of building their character cheerleaders even have an opportunity to attend college on a cheerleading scholarship. Cheerleading organizations such as Golden State Spirit Association (www.gssa1spirit.com) award scholarships to top cheerleaders each year. GSSA specifically focuses on athletes from California and their mission statement is “to create a network focused on recognizing coaches and providing scholarships and performance opportunities to spiritleaders.”
The day your child comes home asking about cheerleading, recognize it as an opportunity for them to learn valuable principles for life. Be proactive in educating yourself so that you can make an informed decision with your children. Take the time to research local programs and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Find a program where your child can enjoy learning and build confidence while accomplishing their athletic goals. At the end of the day remember to enjoy the cheer experience with your child and have fun!
By East Bay Sports Academy. Please visit East Bay Sports Academy in Concord for more information or www.eastbaysportsacademy.com. With over 25 years of coaching experience they offer gymnastics, cheerleading, and sports performance for athletes ages 2 through adult.