Chloe Hayward is a third-year English student from Shrewsbury. Chloe is also Vice President of the University of Liverpool Foxes – our cheerleading squad. In today’s guest blog, Chloe explains what being a cheerleader is really like.
When you hear the words I’m a cheerleader, you may well think of someone like this:
Or possibly this:
Am I right? How about someone that looks like this?
Or how about this?
Yeah, you’re right, I’m not your typical “cheerleader” type. But what does being a cheerleader actually mean? Granted, I’m not to the level of an American cheerleader. I hadn’t ever even tried the sport before University. In fact, I probably adopted the same outlook as most do before they actually know a cheerleader, or become one. Forget your snobby selective and soul-destroying squads; we are not like that, not even close.
For one, we do have brains. I study English Literature, which, this year, includes reading at least one book a week, with language such as: ‘oure fadir that art in heuenes, halwid be thi name…’ – did you get that? We also have medics, anatomists, sociologists, vets, mathematicians, and historians, to name a few. Our team is also not just girls: boys are welcome too – in fact we had one of the first boys in Foxes history try-out this year!
Despite popular thinking, it’s also quite demanding and intricate. My particular team (there are three cheer teams and three dance teams) train for five and a half hours per week, on tumbling, jumps, dance and stunting. That means intensive, muscle-beating, often very hungover work, and no excuses. Drills and conditioning include bear-crawls, sprints, crunches, planks, jumps, and vigorous stretching.
I don’t claim, however, that our cardio-vascular conditioning is as messianic or pressing as, say Basketball or Lacrosse, but I do note that the consequences are just as, perhaps even more, hard-hitting. When performing, you have two and a half minutes to show the judges what you have been training seven months for, and if the stunt falls because of you – because you didn’t have the strength or fitness or flexibility to hold it up, not only will your whole 25-strong team pay a pretty strong price, but you will pay an even bigger amount.
That’s not to say that any one on the team will see a failed stunt or a non-placed routine as your fault. We all know and understand and empathise with everyone else’s struggles. Sometimes it is as easy as mishearing a beat, and your mind set is off, and it becomes nearly impossible to pick it back up. We all know how much cheer can take it out of a person – the training hours, the practicing at home, stretching, keeping fit – on top of that we all have our courses to keep up with (although if we could stay at University forever as immortal Foxes, we would). We also know people need to socialise – and oh, we do this well.
Living with four boys means I need my cheer nights. From dancing on the tables at karaoke, to movie nights in, and from monthly AU nights, to pub golf, we are just like any other sports team. We can be classy, or we can be Noah’s Ark where our President is Noah, and Social Secretary is a fully-fledged zebra. Our welcome party will include meeting all 140-or-so members from all six teams, getting to know the committee, playing our unique and revolutionary Chicken-in-a-hen-house teambuilding activity, and beginning the year as we mean to go on. Returners also have to go through the same two weeks of try-outs as freshers, so there is no room for gimmicks or pretention, and we all start from the beginning again.
So, forget this image of a petite cherub with a perfect fake tan, and pristine four-foot bow; you might think you know what we’re like, and I might say that I’m never going to change your mind, but this is us.