When I was younger I watched the movie series “Bring it On”. It was about two different cheer squads competing against each other. I had two sisters so I had no choice but to watch these movies. However, in watching them I noticed the athleticism and popularity around the cheerleaders that it always consumed me to seek why that was and more importantly how they physically were able to do these acrobatic stunts. Moreover, growing up I always heard that cheerleading was a feminine thing and the term “Cheerleading isn’t a real sport”. Thus because of this ideology I grew up around I wanted to understand and look at cheerleading from a different perspective. I wanted to view this from the lens of actual participants. Therefore, I decided to do my topic on the UNC Cheerleading squad gearing my research question on what were the psychological/psychosocial benefits of cheerleading.
At UNC, the cheerleading program is composed of two Coed squads (JV and Varsity). The squads perform at the athletic events around campus and some off campus. In order to join the team you must first tryout in front of the coaches. While meeting the minimal requirement in tumbling abilities (Females) and for males just being athletic and being willing to learn (Cheer, n.d). Moreover, while cheerleading is an extremely dangerous sport, it provides physical, social, and mental benefits to the individuals that participate. These benefits vary from encouraging fair competition to physical exercise and making new friends/connections (Schlindwein M, 2017). Furthermore, in a study done with the University of Wyoming it was found that a great reason of participation on a collegiate cheer team is because of the positive encouragement that comes with being apart of the team, the close bonds you create with your team and the extrinsic benefit of being able to perform in front of a large crowd (Raaben & Readdy, 2016).
Observational Data and Analysis
For my research, I conducted one observation during the team’s practice and had a one on one interview with a member of the team. The initial observation was on March 2 from 5 to 7 P.M within the SRC gymnastics facility. This observation I conducted during practice was great in helping me observe the setting, interactions between members, and physical workout. All key components to understand the benefits that come with cheerleading. In the beginning, I only introduced myself to a few and one of the coaches. She was extremely friendly and from that initial interaction, I knew she was an approachable individual. I observed their practice from a distance noting down every little detail I could. To summarize, physically they stretched and warmed up together. After that, however, individuals split up into duos(Male and Female) and began doing due stunts with a few individuals circling around them to spot them if the women were to fall during the stunt. Then they transitioned into group stunts called pyramids. These stunts involved a lot of concentration and communication within the team. But, more on the observational side of things I noticed how friendly all the members were to one another. They were all joking around with each other. Exemplifying the feeling of belongingness that can benefit any individual psychologically. More importantly, I observed that all the members had UNC gear on from the shoes to shirts. It is there that I noted that this is a psychosocial benefit that comes with cheering because of the gear they have it aids them in giving a sense of association and popularity.
The interview I conducted was with a member of the team. His name is Jake Dobson a personal friend I made here at UNC. This Interview was held at Davis Library at 3:30 P.M. I began with a few introductory questions about himself and then proceeded to ask him what he believed were the benefits of cheering. He immediately spoke on the physical benefits that cheering has on the body. He noted the amount of time he has to practice and be in the gym He also spoke on how it gives him an incentive to work out and helps shape a routine for him. Note we were short on time, so I proceeded to ask him what he thought the social and mental benefits were with participating in this sport. On the psychosocial part, he spoke on the friends he’s got to make through cheering. Telling me how they were like a family and how it’s a good feeling being able to see them every week. He said and I quote “It’s like a home away from home”. Furthermore, on the mental aspect, he spoke about how cheering helps build personal confidence in oneself not only with working out but with the idea of risking your life whether it’s the women in the air or being the man holding her. He spoke on how anything can go from good to bad in an instant and with doing cheer it helps you be calm in crazy situations and gives you confidence to complete any task.
After doing this research on the subculture of cheerleading. I’m delighted to say that I’m happy with the information I got. Bringing this topic back to the preface, I came with the preconceived notion that cheer is a sport but I never knew the benefits that came with it. In addition, seeking to answer the question of what are the psychological/psychosocial benefits of cheerleading? It is relevant to speak about the physical aspect that comes with joining the team with all the workouts required. Secondly, the psychological benefits that come with this sport through my observation include mental toughness and stability to act in special situations. Lastly, the psychosocial benefits of cheering is the bringing of new friends and relationships that help individuals socially and mentally.
Cheer. (n.d.). Retrieved March 23, 2020 from https://gotarheels.wizsite.com/uncspiritprogram/cheer
Schlindwein M. (2017, June 14). Physical, Social, and Mental Benefits of Cheerleading. Chassé. Retrieved from http://www.chassecheer.com/blog/lifestyle/physical-social-and-mental-benefits-of-cheerleading/
Raaben J & Readdy T (2016) A Qualitative Investigation of Need Fulfillment and Motivational Profiles in Collegiate Cheerleading, Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 87(1), 78-88 https://doi.org/10.1080/02701367.2015.1124970.