Being a 21st Century Cheerleader

Blonde ponytails, mascara-saturated lashes, pink pom-poms, helpless women serving strong men. Cheerleading athletes have dealt with this sexist stereotype for decades, including Campolindo’s Sideline Cheer team. Thankfully that’s changing, as cheer coach Selin Wold and her squads raise awareness and build up the cheer program.

“3 years ago, only 6 people joined the Campo cheer program, and then there were 12, and last year we built it up to 25,” cheer coach Selin Wold said.

Wold believes the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the team in a positive way. Especially because many people were watching the show “Cheer” on Netflix and realized this “girly” hobby is a competitive sport requiring impressive athleticism. Also, Wold herself partially responsible for the team’s progress. “I remember when I cheered at Campo it was something we were proud of…I worked hard for it…and we were so spirited…I didn’t see that a few years ago, at Campo and I thought, that’s really sad.”

She added, “You’ve got a basketball team that wins state tournaments and a football team that wins state championships. Why not a cheer team?” Wold is a fairly new Campo coach and her passion for the team and refusal to let the program receive less than it deserves has helped it reach success.

This progress could just be viewed as 1 of the team’s “ups and downs where you’ve got a period of 5 or 6 years where it is really strong and then it dies off and then comes back again,” Wold said.

However, the coach and athletes won’t let their experience be just another crashing wave. They want to spread the positive message they work tirelessly to enforce. Sideline cheerleader freshman Libby Hathaway said this message is along the theme of, “It doesn’t matter if you mess up, it doesn’t matter what you look like, you can still be a cheerleader- you don’t have to be on the team to be a cheerleader.”

Additionally, It is their “job as cheerleaders to increase school spirit,” as Sideline Cheer co-captain senior Elizabeth Chien said, “but they know their duty doesn’t stop there. 1 of the things we would love to move forward with is cheering for girls sports teams, but right now we only cheer for boys’ basketball and football.”

However, she added the cheer schedule is currently too busy. Nonetheless, she recognizes this not as an excuse to ignore the need for change because of inconveniences it poses, but rather a challenge that needs to be overcome.

What’s seen as a toxic environment full of female gender stereotypes is becoming a place for students to raise their voices against the narrow-minded lens of high school culture. Cheerleaders are meant to be seen, to perform, to be influencers. “We’re a stand alone sport now,” Wold said.

With this new change comes more influence. They team can prove that the cheer program is equal to other sports programs and should be treated that way. In addition, they can represent a variety of students because the team is, “racially very diverse…and in terms of grades [we are] diverse…[and we] all have very different ideas, especially with creativity,” according to Chien.

This creativity can be channeled into influencing the population, not just song choices and dance routines. They can help the school move away from old school ideologies and feminine stereotypes. The cheer team has the opportunity to be more than just an athletic program at Campo. These students can create something that will last for more than 6 years, benefiting not just future cheerleaders, but anyone who has experienced being viewed as less than.

Campolindo claims to be a school turning this goal of equity into reality, yet the cheerleaders continue to face hardships with stereotyping. While these experiences may help them empathize more with others who feel similarly and motivate them to reshape the program, it doesn’t justify this treatment.

The cheer team is bringing positive change to Campo, and the student body can reciprocate in the effort. It is important for people to understand cheer is competitive and the sideline and comp squad are both worthy of support.

While perspectives may be starting to change there is still progress to make. Bringing more attention to the cheer program, whether that’s with posters in hallways or announcements at 5th period, deserves Campo’s dedication.

“Not a real sport…”, “their performance wasn’t good…” are cruel whispers the Cheer athletes refuse to continue tolerating.