There's really no reason for me to like cheerleading as an idea. Nothing against them as individuals, but look at how cheerleaders are portrayed in popular culture: cliquey, elitist, snobby, ostracizing biz-natches.
A lot ofthings have changed since high school. I'm marginally more secure now, for one thing, so I hardly ever think I am the subject of girlish laughter, at least outside my own home. I've learned that movies and television don't always present a balanced or nuanced portrayal of certain social groups. And cheerleading has become a sport in its own right.
Fenya joined the Elementary Cheer Team at Victoria this year, and had her first meet the other night, the Redmen Invitational. I went in with no small amount of trepidation, but I ended up being so impressed, I completely forgot to feel like a dirty old man. Well, mostly; I sometimes forget that feeling like a middle-aged adolescent doesn't actually reverse the aging process.
First of all, Victoria has a huge cheerleading legacy. The current coach has been at Vic for 29 years, and also coaches the Edmonton Eskimo cheer squad. The banners around the whole family gym are largely for provincial and national cheer awards, with a smattering of basketball and volleyball, and one celebrating the Vic cheer team's victory at the world championships in Nagoya Japan in 1994. In addition to being great for the cheerleaders, it is good for the school in general, as I understand they are not exactly feared by athletic competitors.
The support for the cheer teams was unbelievable, as each school's team charged out, the cheers and whistles were positively deafening. I was only there 45 minutes, and my ears were ringing when I left. All the other teams were junior and senior high school, so Fenya's squad of grade 4-6ers really stuck out, but thanks to a great intro, they got the loudest cheers of all.
Fenya is not exactly shy, but performing a dance and cheer routine in front of a frenzied crowd really took her out of her comfort zone, and I was proud of her. The fact that a team mate accidentally clocked her in the chops and knocked out a loose tooth was just icing on the cake.
Glory and I stayed to watch a few more performances while Fenya and Audrey took off to a choir rehearsal, and my state of being impressed was only enhanced. These kids clearly put a lot of time, effort and energy into their performances, and some of them are completely fearless, being flung into the air and being caught by their comrades. At one point we watched a girl get vaulted at least 20 feet in the air, while spinning, and then get caught by 4, maybe 5 teammates. "Wow!" gasped Glory, and I nodded. "Did you see how many boys are on that team?" I asked her. She shook her head. "None," I said.
I can't help but think that exposing Fenya to this degree of dedication, spirit and athleticism will be really good for her, and entertaining for the rest of us.