I graduated from Virginia Tech in 2014 with a degree in Industrial Systems Engineering and now work as a facility coordinator with the government. I have always loved any type of athletics, lifting weights is one of my favorite hobbies, and I have a passion for writing and playing music; but to me, God and family trump all of those.
“Do you want to come throw some girls around?”
That was the question that led me into the completely new world of college cheerleading. I came in as a freshman with big hopes to walk-on to a D1 football team. Three tryouts later, and I realized my dreams were just a bit out of reach. Thankfully, my sophomore year, I was asked to come sit-in on a cheerleading practice and tryout; and it completely changed my college experience.
I watched in awe as the guys, varying from 140-300lbs, threw girls just as diverse. Some would fly 20 feet in the air and spin so fast that it made me dizzy. Others did backflips and landed on top of the base’s outstretched arms. Some did running passes, repeatedly flipping and twisting with agility and finesse. The friendly team welcomed me right away, and the older guys showed my some of the basics. I was learning how to throw human beings. After a couple hours of practice, I had learned a trick or two, and had a whole new appreciation for cheerleading. After an invite to keep coming to practices, I decided I would become a male cheerleader.
Immediately, the criticism started. Friends scoffed, others laughed. However, many supported the decision, including my wonderful parents. I realized it didn’t matter what others thought, so I ignored the rebuke. I’m here to tell you that joining the cheerleading team was one of the best decisions I made in my college career; I’m so proud and thankful that I was a male cheerleader, and strongly encourage other young men in college to consider it. If you still are wary or apprehensive, here are a few of the reasons I loved my experience.
Cheerleaders are actual athletes. Yes, even the guys! At least the ones that I had the pleasure of calling my teammates. OK, maybe there are some differences. Football players throw footballs. Cheerleaders throw people. If a football player drops a pass, the ball gets a scuff mark. If cheerleaders drop a stunt, someone could end up in the emergency room. If a football makes some mistakes, they might still win the game. If they don’t win the game, they can play well in other games. Most cheerleading teams only get one or two competitions the whole year. If the routine doesn’t hit perfectly, it’s likely the end of the road.
Some of the strongest guys (and girls!) I know were also on the team with me. At one point, nearly the whole male team could squat 300+ pounds, including the smaller guys. Many squatted 400+, a couple 500+, some even pushing 600 pounds. Those are amazing numbers for anyone. Most of the guys who made fun of us “for not being athletes” couldn’t even keep up at the gym.
I was on a team with over 40 fantastic guys and girls. I’d be wrong to say that my teammates didn’t change my life as they became some of my best friends. The girls were very serious about the sport, some doing gymnastics since they could walk. They were dedicated yet knew how to have fun, and I became wonderful friends with these ladies. The guys on the team weren’t arrogant jocks just trying to make it to the pros. They were quality young men who loved the sport for what it was, despite the ignorant negativity that was often received from the outside. They worked hard and stayed humble, and they will always hold a place in my heart.
There are countless perks! OK, besides the pretty girls. I currently own enough shirts, shoes, and sweat suits, all acquired for free from being on the team, to clothe a small town. I have visited more colleges that most people can name. I competed on national television. I led the football and basketball teams out of the tunnel. I experienced game day 5 feet from the field and court. Remind me again why joining the team was a bad idea?
It provided me an excellent leadership opportunity. Coming in as a know-nothing sophomore, I was eager to learn, work-hard, and improve. I quickly climbed the ladder and had the honor of being a team captain my senior year. I learned about leadership, how to mitigate problems and stay calm under stress, how to lead nearly 40 male and female teammates, and so much more. I’m so thankful for that opportunity, and I know the experience will continue to benefit me in the future.
The team became my second family. It’s that simple. I had fun my first year at college, but I was craving more. I found what I was looking for on the team. I spent nearly every day with them. We all became so close and had amazing bonding experiences as we trained and practiced for countless hours, traveled the country by bus and plane, represented our school through thick and thin, was booed, insulted, and threated by rival fans, and competed together on the national stage
Having graduated, it’s an exciting time for me and I certainly stay busy, but I do miss being on the team. I’ll always look back on those college days when I was male cheerleader; and when people ask if I played sports in college, I’ll proudly and truthfully answer, “Yes!” I do encourage those guy who might be looking for a new and exciting challenge to consider trying out: and before you laugh at or insult the next guy who tells you he’s a cheerleader, remeber that he travels around the country in free athletic gear, supporting his school inches away from the action, throwing beautiful women through the air (and generally catching them), with a team that is his second family…and there’s a good chance he would win in a fight.