Not all cheerleading squads are created equal – that much is certain. However, unless you’re familiar with each tier of what has become a booming sports industry, you may not realize just how many intricacies and nuances make various types of cheerleaders different from one another.
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The knowledge gap is much wider for those who have only a casual understanding of cheerleading as both a sport and a lifestyle unto itself. Where does that level of information s begin and end?
Well, some people think of cheerleaders in more antiquated terms, conjuring up images of pompoms and similar nostalgic cheese. Others have a slightly more modern version of the cheerleading architype, one centered on the idea of a large group entertaining a crowd during stoppages of play at football games.
In either case, both those notions focus on just one type of cheer athlete. In reality, there are many other subsections of the sport that don’t get as much public attention but are by no means any less important. All types of cheerleaders are spiritually linked by one commonality: their love of performing at the height of their capabilities, whatever their skill level may be.
From all-star caliber cheerleaders to more recreational fare, this blog article will deconstruct various types of cheerleading in detail, highlighting differences and similarities between them. I’ll also highlight what makes each of them special, capable of catering to specific audiences and helping the industry grow.
Let’s get started!
All-star cheerleading is widely regarded as the pinnacle of the sport from a skills point of view. Squads who train and compete at this level are normally associated with cheer gyms that teach advanced techniques such as tumbling, gymnastics-style moves and more.
For all-star squads, their main objective is typically to perform at elite competitions around North America. Hopefully, they’re able to rise above other teams they compete against and walk away with some hardware, etching their name into the fabric of the worldwide cheerleading scene.
Since the emphasis is placed mainly on competing against other top-tier cheer ensembles, the individual skill level of each squad member is very high. Becoming a part of one of these groups usually means a rigorous audition process awaits those looking to beat out other athletes for one of (usually) a small number of available spots.
The travelling requirement for all-star cheer squads can also mean a bigger expense for parents and/or families, especially as the competition becomes fiercer and fiercer. From costumes to entry fees to additional training on the side, the costs are higher but the potential for widespread recognition as a prestigious level of cheerleading is also amplified.
While the world of all-star cheerleading can sound intimidating to some upon first inspection, it’s also a fantastic environment for anyone to balance that thrill of competition with a warm, family-like atmosphere. All-star cheer is also the sport’s fastest-growing sector and has contributed significantly to the sport’s newfound Olympic-level mainstream appeal.
High School Cheerleading
I mentioned the stereotypical image of a cheerleader before and, if there’s one category that it hues closest to, it’s likely high school cheerleading.
Of the best cheerleader movies and TV shows, the majority of them take place in either a high school or college environment, so it’s easy to see how certain labels and expectations have been placed on cheerleaders who fall into that age range. However, those depictions aren’t always reflective on real-world high school cheerleading.
The focus of these squads – to cheer on various sports teams associated with the school and promote spirit among the student body – is usually summed well in pop culture. Partaking in cheerleading at this level often means travelling to other schools or sports facilities as part of a season or year-long commitment.
An aspect of high school cheerleading that is generally overblown is the tryout process. Often staged by Hollywood as a grueling, sometimes ridicule-filled event, its real-life counterpart is generally far less cutthroat, with coaches and/or members of the student body judging cheerleading hopefuls and having a say in who makes the squad.
Above all else, being a high school cheerleader means becoming an extension of an institution’s personality, brand and style. Individual interjections of flair are what make these high school squads special too, using the school’s established persona as a springboard for their own creativity and expression through various routines that are performed.
Finally, we get to arguably the most laid-back setting for cheerleading: the recreational domain.
Commonly associated with a community’s recreation department or an organization such as YWCA, Pop Warner, American Youth Football and so on, this option is beloved by many athletes who want to pursue cheerleading in their downtime but don’t necessarily want to wade into any competitive milieus either.
Athletes of all skills levels and from all walks of life can even be seen getting together and forming a squad on their own. In keeping with this mindset, no official tryouts are usually held. Instead, those who sign up are all welcome to be part of the squad.
The cost can also be a major selling point for cheerleading as a recreational activity, since it is normally on the inexpensive side if you’re not part of a competitive squad. Some local organizations may also subsidize costs even further through partnerships or different kinds of fundraising efforts.
Recreational cheerleaders can compete in regional competitions as well, although the skill level for squads who enter those events is typically at the beginner stage. When it comes to training and the day-to-day of rec-based cheer, the fundamentals are taught and absorbed by team members over time, with the more experienced athletes potentially experimenting with more difficult maneuvers.
Regardless of whether you’re competing at an all-star level or someone who just enjoys pursuing the sport in your spare time, cheerleading is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States for several reasons. One of the biggest? The increased mainstream exposure that has led to the expansion of most people’s understanding of what cheerleading really is.
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