Even if you didn’t go to high school in the United States, you are familiar with the concept of cheerleaders. Pleated skirts, pom-poms, and all the stereotypes. I know some of our high school’s cheerleaders, and I can tell you those stereotypes aren’t true. Several cheerleaders were honor students. One of them was an editor for our creative writing magazine. Cheerleaders were among the kindest and most supportive people I knew in school. Cheerleaders are socially popular. But as I learned in high school, popularity is based on how you treat people and what you can do for them.
Perhaps it helped that our cheerleaders dressed like this.
I reviewed a couple of children’s books by Reseda Charter High School’s current cheerleading coach Alise Cayen, Patty Pom-Poms and The Cheerventures of Patty Pom-Poms: Making the Grades. These stories are about seven-year-old Patty Kaplinsky, who wants to be an athlete like her older brothers. She tries out different sports, but she couldn’t find one she liked or could do well in. Then she discovers cheerleading and falls in love with it. But she also learns that being a cheerleader means working hard, being a part of a team—and as she discovers in the second book—doing well in school and managing cheer with her other responsibilities.
The cheerleaders I knew in high school told me similar stories about how their experiences benefitted them throughout their lives. These include:
- How practice helps you improve your skills and prepare for your performance.
- How to represent your school in a positive way. A cheerleader said, “I represented the kind spirit of Reseda when interacting and exchanging swag with ‘rival’ team cheerleaders. So being kind is top of mind!”
- How to be a good sport when your team loses.
- The importance of teamwork. One mentioned “how good comradeship feels.” Another said, “Those more seasoned than me never let me fail… No one makes it alone! We lift each other as we climb.”
They concluded that “one day you’ll remember those days as some of the best days of your life,” and they still try to emulate the basic characteristics they admired from their cheerleading squads.
The Patty Pom-Poms books teach children the importance of finding your passion and working hard to excel in it. For some people, like Patty and my friends from high school, it was cheerleading. For me, it was writing and musical theater. And if you don’t find it in high school, you may find it later in life. Whatever it is, find something that pushes you to grow, encourages you to be your best self, and gives you a sense of accomplishment.
Note: As I was writing this post, I got an article about Mission Viejo High School cheerleader Harley Henricks who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukemia. She is receiving love and support from her family and fellow cheerleaders. You can help her by donating to her GoFundMe page.