Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Cheerleaders: Are They Finally Getting Respect as Athletes?

American Cheerleader magazine has a book review page, and I was thrilled to find TOP TEN USES FOR AN UNWORN PROM DRESS in the December issue as one of their six recommended “fun reads”! I love the idea of cheerleaders all over the country reading about my characters, and hope to hear from many of them through my website.

American Cheerleader is a colorful and informative magazine, and it got me thinking about cheerleaders, past and present. In my day, cheerleaders were often dismissed as pretty girls who wanted to date football players. But today, cheerleading is regarded as a demanding sport. In fact, a high school senior recently told me at his school, the cheerleaders sustain as many sports-related injuries than the football players.

A sit-down with one of my favorite movies, “Bring It On,” drives home the blood, sweat and tears--and sometimes the guts--required in cheerleading.

And a look at the following list of ex-cheerleaders shows it takes a special kind of person to fill those shoes:

Paula Abdul
Halle Berry
Katie Couric
Teri Hatcher
Mandy Moore
Alicia Silverstone
Vanna White


Jennifer Lynn Barnes,
Delacorte author of GOLDEN and TATTOO.

Still, the fact that cheerleaders tend to be young, attractive and wear cute little outfits keeps them--to some people--in Eye Candyland.

What do you think? With society’s increasing awareness and admiration of athletes, are cheerleaders are finally getting their due as hard-working competitors?


Top Ten Uses for An Unworn Prom Dress, March, 2007
How to Hook a Hottie, Spring 2008


Marley Gibson said...

Great post, Tina and huge congrats on the accolades in the magazine!! BRING IT ON is a favorite of mine, too. Really realistic and shows the hard work, dedication and athleticism involved.

You can add me to the list of former cheerleaders. I remember working out hard, bench pressing with the guys for strength training and running stairs to stay winded and in shape. We did nothing like the tough stunts and pyramids of today, so today's cheerleaders really have to be physical specimens.

I particularly hate when movies or TV shows characterize the cheerleaders as the snobs or b*tches of a school, when that's a horrible stereotype. Cheerleaders are the spiritual (not in a religious way) leaders of any high school. They put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears, as you say, as well as a lot of artistic talent, dance skills, tumbling ability and overall hospitality towards all the other students.


Marley = )
http://www.marleygibson.com (there's a picture of me as a cheerleader on my bio page on my website.)

Anonymous said...

I was never a cheerleader, but I did have that a bit of that "wanna be one" inside me when I was in highschool. In fact, I wanted to me a lot of things, except who I was. Which I guess makes for some good stories now.

Happy Holidays,

stephhale said...

Add me to Janie's wannabee list. I was on the pom pom squad or is it pom pon (I never could figure that out) for a semester but I was flunking geometry so I was ineligible almost the whole time. Yes, I was a big LOSER. I really wasn't I just hated geometry, but that's a whole other blog post. I really hope that cheerleaders are starting to get the credit they deserve! Very cool about the mag review, Tina!

Kelly (Lynn) Parra said...

Tina, I was cheerleader in grade school, couldn't make it junior high because everything turned really acrobatic. haha! But yes, cheerleading is tough work and takes lots of stamina and ability. =D

TinaFerraro said...

Marley, I had no idea you had a cheerleading background, or I would have included you in my list! Thanks for sharing that and your thoughts with us.

Janie and Steph, yeah, I was a wannbe on the sidelines, too. And Steph, you and I have to TALK about geometry. It was nearly the death of me.

Kel, yeah, aerobics and dance and gymnanstics--it's all there in cheerleading, huh? And Happy Birthday! :)

Thanks for weighing in!


Anonymous said...

I think cheerleaders are definitely athletes and should be treated as such. Its really scary that professional cheerleaders in the NFL make tiny amounts of money when the football players are millionaires, what is wrong with THAT picture? I read somewhere that the cheerleaders do it for exposure and that alot of them want to be actresses and that they get side deals etc. So what? So do the NFL players and they demand millions. As long as these women keep accepting low pay the NFL will keep paying cheerleaders crap.
Its just depressing. I hope someone sees my comment and says 'oh you are wrong, they make a ton of money'. I would love to be wrong on this.

Anonymous said...

I was a competitive cheerleader in middle school. By the time we were fourteen, we were doing some really crazy stunts, and tumbling was required (I could only do a backhandspring, but most of the girls on our squad could do flips, and several could do layouts, fulls, etc, and one girl could a double full, which is a layout, with two full twists). Our squad cheered for football games and basketball games, and went to competitions.

I have never in my life been in better shape than when I was a cheerleader- we ran a mile or two at the beginning of every practice, did literally thousands of situps and pushups each week, and practiced at seven in the morning in the summers. It was unquestionably athletic.

The cheerleader as a bitca stereotype isn't one that bothers me too much. Cheerleaders are athletes, but (at least at my high school), all of the athletic teams had different stereotypes that applied. What cheerleaders were at my public school when I was a cheerleader, field hockey players were at my private high school. That particular stereotype doesn't exclude athleticism. Certain sports have a tendency to attract social power players- what those sports are vary from school to school and across different areas of the country.

The cheerleading stereotype that bothers me more is the "dumb cheerleader" stereotype. While it makes sense to think that certain sports attract people with different social ambitions (in accordance with the sport's standing in the social hierarchy), it's absolutely assinine to think that certain sports attract dumb people. I honestly believe that on the whole, cheerleaders are one of the most consistently underestimated groups around. That's one of the major themes of my cheerleading spy series, THE SQUAD (Delacorte, 2008). If you're looking for a group of teens who are smart, savvy, athletic, pretty, and sometimes even manipulative, who no one would EVER see as a threat outside of the social world of high school, look no further than a competitive cheerleading squad. Slap a girl in a cheerleading skirt, and no one will ever suspect that she has motivations beyond back flips and popularity. As a cheerleader, and someone who- before and since my cheerleading days- other people tend to assume is dumb, just from looking at me, I've learned over time that being underestimated is the best gift your opponent can give you.

-Jen Barnes

Anonymous said...

Can't forget Claire from the show "Heroes" and yes, I finally think they're getting respect. CMT (the country music channel) had a mini-series about the latest auditions for the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. I never realized what they had to go thru to wear that uniform. I forgot how many girls tried out--and how many they chose--but only 36 made it. They went thru bootcamp-type exercises regimens, they really had to watch their weight, etc. It was tough. It's nothing like the pyramid and acrobatic stuff that's going on now, but I can just imagine all the injuries they obtain from doing those.

It's never going to be an Olympic sport (or could it?), but you have to admit that not everyone is cut out for it.

"R-O-W-D-A-Y that's the way we spell row-dy. Let's get row-dy."

Simone Elkeles said...

Tina, huge congrats on being mentioned in the magazine! I think the reality shows now portray the reality of cheerleading and how difficult it is.

That show MADE (on MTV??) had a lot of people wanting to be cheerleaders. Most of them, even though they were trained by the best of the best, couldn't make the team. It takes a lot of hard work. Some schools compete, they have the most talented cheerleaders. I'm always in awe of them and wish I had their bodies.

~Simone Elkeles

Young Adult Authors said...

Congrats on the magazine exposure, Tina! I was never a cheerleader, so forgive me my cheer-ignorance... I know it's hard and stuff, but I never really got the sport aspect of it. Maybe that was because I went to maybe two football games my whole HS career? I know, I'm a drama girl... sorry!
Still, it's hard not to be impressed when I flip on to one of those ESPN cheerleader competitions. Totally athletic and awesome! So, yay!

TinaFerraro said...

Jane, I wish I could tell you that professional cheerleaders made good money, but I'm afraid pitiful salaries is what I've heard, too. Sigh...

Jen, thanks for coming over the ocean to weigh in! I agree wholeheartedly about the required athleticism, and the misplaced stereotype that cheerleaders are "dumb". And I don't remember hearing about your spy cheerleading series before--or if you told me at the SCBWI last August, I just plain forgot--so now I've got something else to look forward to!

Gemini, thanks for telling us about the CMT series...sounds fascinating.

Simone, thanks, too, for the heads-up on MADE.

Heather, I admit I probably only went to 2 HS football games in my life, too, and it was later in life that I got my eyes opened to cheerleaders. But now that they are, as you said, "Yay!"