23 June 2014

Lipstick, Lycra & Leaping: Cheerleading is a Whole New World

Miss fab has always had boundless energy and has never simply walked anywhere - she skips, twirls or cartwheels to her destination. She can turn somersaults, do backwards walkovers and perform the splits in rapid succession, as well as lift her leg right up by her ear.

As others have witnessed her acrobatics, I've often been asked whether this flexible athletic kid does gymnastics... to which I've had to say sadly, no. Gymnastics required too much waiting around; Miss fab gave up on it when she was four.

Then she heard about Cheerleading from some girls she met while camping and wanted to try it. Cheerleading sounded like just the thing for a girl who can't sit still, so I said, hey sure why not... until I began to hear stories about the make-up, skimpy outfits and pageantry. Not to mention the hair bows.
Oh dear. Could I in all good conscience let my kid take part in something which might only bring out more of the diva within (Couldn't she just keep playing netball?)?

Bottom line, I was too worried about what some of my friends might think. Once I realised this, I took a deep breath, signed her up ...and have been nervously awaiting our first Big Event ever since.

On Sunday the day finally dawned. Our very first National Champs, Rock'n'Cheer competition. Thankfully I have moral support in my friend Justine (mum of classmate & teammate, Yaz), who has been equally nervous for all the same reasons.

Justine arrived bright and early to glam up our girls - makeup, glitz and glamour is as much a part of the team's presentation as it is in Rhythmic Gymnastics, or iceskating. (This is what I consoled myself with; it's not a beauty pageant, it's a legitimate team sport, just with lipstick).

The hair bows take a bit of getting used to, but I have to say I don't mind our team uniform at all. I'd been in a state of nervous anxiety ever since signing up, about what crazy get-up our pre-teens might have to wear, but when they were revealed I was rather relieved - our uniform is plenty modest with not a bare midriff in sight.

The comp was held at the North Shore Events Centre and it was massive. I had no clue it was so big, with so many teams. Apparently there were over 1000 young cheerleaders competing!

[Warming up]
There was not a pom-pom to be seen. Cheerleading is not what you'd think based on American teen movies and Glee.
It's all about team-work, choreography, acrobatics, coordination, stunting and performing with a great big smile on your face.

There were loads of categories for every age and stage. Our team ("Galaxy Shooting Stars") is at the beginner level for under-11s, but there were (at least) two groups below us, based on age. To be honest I'm still a little unclear on how it all works.

[Our team in action; the above two photos were taken by another mum, Luana]
Our girls did really good, remembering their moves and looking like they were having fun. It tickled me to see Miss fab rock out onto the floor with the hugest grin on her face; she really comes alive on stage. There is not a moment's nervousness, she absolutely revels in the limelight. As two of the oldest - and tallest - girls in the group, Miss fab and Yaz get to be "back bases", which is far less glamorous than being the "flyers" but is essential nonetheless. Teamwork, see? Everybody plays their part for the good of the team.

As I said, the team did good. In fact, our girls placed third in their division and came away with bronze medals. Woop woop!

So what did have I learned about this brave new world of cheerleading?

Firstly I learned that it's not as scary and pageant-y as I thought. I was worried for nothing, really. Sure there's lots of makeup and the strange obsession with hair bows, but it really is a very exciting sport to watch and to be part of. The girls had a great time competing, being part of something huge and - lets be honest - getting glammed up.

All in all, I think we can live with having a cheerleader in the family. Cheerleading might not be quintessentially Kiwi, it might involve more hairspray and glitter than you see on the netball court, but it's what my girl wants to do. And it's what she's GOOD at. 

It might not be for everybody, but I'm OK with it being for us.

Well done, girls, and Roll on the next Pageant Competition!

P.S. Huge thanks to Daddy who dragged the boys along and came to support our girl. It's a big change from being on the football sidelines and we sure appreciate you braving this world of lycra and lipstick. You rock, Daddy!

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