As Nicole’12 prepares to perform a roundoff back-handspring tuck, her focus and determination is palpable. She poses in front of the mat and closes her eyes, envisioning the move, a backflip with her feet connected, that she is about to do. After preparing herself she lunges forward and lands the roundoff back-handspring tuck.
As a young girl, Nicole didn’t decide, like other girls, to go to ballet class, join the co-ed basketball team, or take art classes. Instead she joined the cheerleading team for a community football league. From second to fourth grade she cheered at games, and she’s loved it ever since. She now cheers for Victory Cheer Company.
“My favorite parts of cheerleading are the competitions and performing. A lot of people don’t give it that much credit, but cheerleading requires a lot of work and dedication,” Nicole said.
In a typical cheerleading practice, the team will work on tumbling skills and stunts and will continue running the routine in order to make sure every detail is perfect. They meet twice a week and Nicole is also required to go to a separate tumbling class once a week. They then travel to places as far as Nevada to compete.
One of the key team formations they practice is a pyramid. The cheerleading pyramid consists of three parts, the fliers, the base and the backspot. Nicole is a part of the base of the pyramid. The base holds the feet of the flier stable and in place.
“You have to catch them higher in the air and bring them down towards you so that it looks clean and they don’t get hurt,” Nicole said.
A common phrase her coaches repeat is, “Don’t let her flop like a fish!”
Typically the younger and lighter girls are the fliers and the stronger girls are part of the base and the backspot. The fliers have more extensive training, however everyone still trains to strengthen their legs and core to improve in tumbling and dancing.
As of right now, Nicole can perform a back handspring tuck and is practicing a roundoff-back-handspring tuck. The way you learn new skills and stunts is by practicing on a trampoline and then trying it on the ground.
Nicole said the best parts of cheerleading are the competitions, but competitions can also be the most stressful. Every aspect of the routine has to be perfect.
She said performing is the most fun, but also the hardest on her nerves. “You never know if something’s going to go wrong or if someone’s going to fall,” Nicole said.
The conditioning and tumbling practice does pay off, because just recently Nicole and her team ranked first at Jam Fest in Las Vegas. This means that a video of their routine will be sent to the World Panel to be considered among hundreds of other top qualifiers across the nation.
“We all knew we would be going up against harder teams, so when we came in first it was really exciting. When they called the second place winners and it wasn’t us, we all started screaming because we realized we had won,” Nicole said.
Cheerleading is big time commitment and therefore Nicole is planning on taking junior year off, but intends to start again senior year. In the year she is taking off, she plans to go to tumbling class to keep in shape.
“It’s tough to balance cheerleading and school and it required a lot of late nights, but I usually just try to get most of my homework done on Monday because I have practice on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday,” Nicole said.