I fallen in love with a new sport. Last April I wrote a piece about the importance of being a team and I linked it all to dance - for as long as I can remember, dancing has been my life - but when I finished school last July, it was time to say goodbye to dance. And that broke me, it was so hard to leave everyone there (even though I know they are always there for me to go back to) and I found it weird to not dance over the summer. Come September when I packed up my things to go to Uni I was stuck, I knew there was a cheerleading and a dance team and I knew I couldn't really do both.
I chose cheerleading, and it's been the best decision I've made this year. The thing is, I've danced since I was three and always with the same people and the thought of not doing it with LHTS was too frightening, plus I wanted to try something new. So now I've gone from part of the 'LHTS Army' to the 'Queen Mary's Angels' and I couldn't be happier.
Cheerleading is hard. Don't go thinking it's some kind of wave your pom poms round, cheer for a sports team (although I would love to do that..!) Think more of a mixture of gymnastics, weight-lifting (but with people) and dance. Training's long and tough, you stretch, you tumble, you stunt and occasionally you dance. All building to create a routine to compete in three competitions come February. It builds muscle, creates friends and brings a great sense of accomplishment.
Dancing was always about the lines, technique and the gracefulness however cheer is more about strength, power and technique. I've never been strong, before my back surgery and after, I've lacked having core strength and I've struggled lifting things, but cheer has made me strong. It hurts, god, the conditioning hurts but after doing it twice a week (at least) every week since the end of September, I can definitely see an improvement!
If I think back to the first session when I struggled with just two press-ups to yesterday, when I finally got a two man stunt (mainly me lifting one flyer with the support of one other person.) After a lot of fails and a whole lot of help, I still managed it and comparing that to September, I'm amazed.
I have so much further to go, I'm on an all-girl level 2 team which is hard. However on Sunday I travelled to support our 'elite' team ( a co-ed Level 3 team) I was amazed and inspired all in one. They are amazing: the way they hit their stunts so smoothly, the fast, clean and gravity defying tumbling - all with a happiest (and sassiest) of grins on their face was breathtaking. It inspired me.
Not only to be stronger, mentally and physically, but it just made me happy that I've found a new family.
At my dance school we were such a close family and it's a similar feeling at QMA. Everyone is so friendly, welcoming and motivating that having a range of abilities is no problem. We motivate, help and advise each other to be the best that we can be. I've already made such close friends at cheerleading and the thought that I get to spend another three years training and improving with them at my side makes me so excited and motivated to give it my best.
People were skeptical when I told them I would join cheerleading because of my back. I knew I wanted to join QMA ever since I heard of Queen Mary's but always had a niggle of doubt that my back couldn't take it. But I, and everyone else, was wrong. It makes me stronger and more aware of my body. Yes, my back still aches occasionally, that is never going to change, but the muscles that I've built have strengthened my back and my confidence in myself - scoliosis will never hold me back!
One piece of advice I've always heard given to people going to university is to join a sports team or a society and I couldn't agree more! I'm so excited to get stronger, more confident and work towards the best we can be with my team. It's sad to wave dancing goodbye but it has given me the basics that I look forward to using over the next three years when I fulfil my childhood dream of being a cheerleader!
(If you wanna see Elite's routine check it out here, its amazing!)