How Cheer Changed Her Life
BAND sponsored content
Ariana is a 13-year-old cheerleader from Newark, Delaware. She began cheering two years ago when constant complaints of bullying and low self-esteem propelled her mom on a mission to find her daughter a sport. She wanted an activity that would help build her confidence. Lauren, who is a single mom raising Ariana on her own, works full time in the financial industry to support them both. Despite not having a lot of extra time or money laying around, she knew she needed to take action and enrolled Ariana in the Newark Cheer Force. And if you don’t think cheerleading is a sport, well you can put that age-old idea to rest. Cheerleading was officially recognized in 2016 by the International Olympic Committee and in many states, competitive cheerleaders are now officially identified as student-athletes. And just like all the rest of youth sports, cheerleading comes with a demanding schedule, high price tag, and intense parents. This is the case study of how cheerleading changed Ariana’s life, as told by her mom.
- What sports did you play as a child? As a child I didn’t play any sports, but I enjoyed dancing and singing.
- How old was Ariana when she started cheer? She started at age 11. Before that, she tried volleyball but didn’t like it.
- How/why did you decide on cheer? When Ariana was 10 or 11, I noticed a change in her. My happy kid was becoming sad and withdrawn. She was constantly complaining that the kids at school were bullying her and I could see she was having a lot of issues associated with low self-esteem. I thought I needed to try something, and fast. I had heard that sports might help with confidence. Ariana was always focused on academics more than anything else. A coworker told me about a local cheerleading team that her daughter was on, the Newark Cheer Force, and we decided to try out.
- What is the time commitment with practices and travel? Practice twice a week for 2 hours and travel out of state many weekends for competition. Also the fundraising takes a lot of time. Parents and cheerleaders spend their weekends standing in front of grocery stores and other locations raising money for our trips.
- Why did you decide to become the cheer team mom and what does that entail? It’s very time intensive and since I work a full-time job, it’s like having two jobs. I handle all the behind the scenes work that allows the coaches to focus on coaching. I plan fundraisers, handle travel arrangements, communicate with parents and most importantly keep track of the team’s financials. But it’s also very rewarding. It allowed both of us to really dig right into this new community.
- What are the most challenging parts of your daughter doing cheer? Time Management – trying to make sure I finish my own responsibilities at work and then rushing home to pick up my daughter to make sure she is to her practice on time. Also, the cost that is associated with her doing cheer. Her cheer team does do fundraising to raise most of the money for travel costs, but a portion of the cost is the parent’s responsibility. And being a single parent, it gets tough sometimes to be able to afford it all. But I would never stop because she has grown so much by doing it and loves it so much.
- How has cheer helped or changed your daughter and yourself? Cheer has helped my daughter build confidence in herself, make new friends and discover an entirely different side of her she didn’t know existed. It has really changed her life. An added bonus is that it’s given me a chance to meet new families.
- What is the best part of cheer? Even though our lives are now so busy, it feels good to be active. My daughter enjoys being a part of a team and I enjoy helping to keep her team organized. Being an only child, I know Ariana sometimes gets lonely, so having the sisterhood of friends on her cheerleading team has helped her become a social butterfly. We also enjoy traveling to new places when we go to different states for competitions.
- What are some of your secret weapons? My biggest challenge and responsibility on the team is to keep everyone and myself organized. So, one secret weapon I use, is BAND. It’s an app that helps us with scheduling, travel, photo sharing and even daily communication. I contribute a lot of my ability to handle everything to BAND. It’s the hub of all our communication. I even upload our routine videos so the team can practice at home. Also, having structure. It’s not a secret weapon, rather a natural consequence from being busy, but it’s really helped Ariana excel in cheer, school, and to stay balanced. Education comes first, so if the cheerleaders are not excelling in the classroom, they cannot participate in cheer.
- What are the cheer parents like and are they as intense as in the rest of youth sports? The cheer parents are a very interesting group that I also can call my new family and friends. We all share the common goal to see how girls get excited about a sport that they all love. I would say that cheerleading can get crazy at times just like other youth sports. Parents are very competitive and all want to make sure their child shines. One thing I have learned is that you must step back and let the coaches do their job. Some parents during practice like to direct their child and tell them what they’re doing wrong, but this is one of the main things that drives all coaches crazy. Our coach tells all parents it’s best that they drop their child off and leave the gym until practice is over so there is no interruption.
- What is the goal/end game with cheer? Since my daughter has now found a sport she loves to do she plans on continuing to cheer through high school and maybe even college. She has stated she plans on going to UCLA, so with the cost of tuition I will begin to look for scholarships for cheerleading if they exist.
- What is your overall philosophy for your daughter and her cheer? Cheerleading is a sport that requires dedication. It is a learning experience and it will take time to succeed at certain techniques, but always have the confidence in yourself to believe that as long as you practice improving, you will achieve the goals you have set for yourself. And most importantly, have fun …