My favorite part of the year is football season because I cheer at the games. I love performing dances while the band plays, cheering on the football team and getting the crowd excited. At one football game last year the crowd was just watching the game silently with their hands in their laps, not clapping or yelling for the players, or slamming their hands against their legs in disgust. So one of the cheerleaders called out the chant “DE-FENSE,” and the rest of us joined in. We shouted “ DE-FENSE, DE-FENSE.”
The crowd started yelling along with us. Then I noticed that some guys in the stands were holding up a huge letter “D” and a small, white picket fence. This made me feel like we were doing a great job because they were interacting with us. As the game went on, the crowd clapped and yelled for the players even without us cheering.
I started cheerleading when I was 13. My dad signed me up for a Pop Warner cheerleading team in Redondo Beach because he wanted me to join an activity outside of school. Pop Warner is a recreational league for kids. The moves, like holding your arms up in a V shape and kicking your foot up to your head, were easy to learn and it was fun making friends with the other girls. Before I joined I was afraid of even talking in front of my classes during presentations, but during football games, knowing my teammates were cheering along with me, I was yelling, jumping and dancing in front of more than a hundred people.
Seeing others cheer made me want to join
As much as I liked cheerleading I didn’t do it my freshman year at Culver City High because I missed the tryouts. When I saw the cheerleaders at the first football game I went to, I was jealous. It reminded me of when I cheered in middle school. I missed being with my cheerleading friends, shouting chants and lifting them in the air. I knew I had to try out the next season.
I was nervous before tryouts because I didn’t know how hard they would be. But as one of the coaches taught us the moves to the cheer and the dance, I picked them up easily. When I found out that I made the junior varsity cheer team, which meant I’d be cheering for the JV football and basketball teams, I was really excited.
Practice was harder than when I cheered on my team in Redondo Beach. In Pop Warner, when we couldn’t perfect a stunt the coach would say forget it and move on to a new stunt. But on my high school team, we kept going until we mastered it and it was the captain who pushed us as much as the coach. We practiced three days a week for three hours a day.
Last year we had to learn a stunt that took all of my strength. The stunt started with me and another girl facing each other a few feet apart. Then a smaller girl (the flyer) jumped up and put one foot in each of our hands and we lifted her over our heads into a standing position. And I did all that while smiling.
It’s harder but our stunts are better
At first I didn’t like that it was so serious, because I thought it wouldn’t be as much fun. But because we practiced harder and longer, we were able to master stunts like throwing a girl and catching her. When I saw the hard work pay off that’s when I realized I loved this.
So when I got hurt this summer, I was bummed. I heard my knee crack while doing toe kicks. At first the doctor thought I might have torn a ligament and that I’d miss the season. Thankfully it wasn’t torn and I had to sit out for only a couple weeks. Instead of laughing with my friends at cheer practice this summer, I was stuck at home with my annoying brothers. I missed throwing people in the air. I missed dancing and learning the cheers. I missed everything.
I returned to practice in early August. It was great. As soon as I got there my friends ran up and hugged me.
A few days later coach said she was going to tell us who made varsity and who would be on junior varsity. My heart was racing. I didn’t want to be on JV again but I was nervous because I hadn’t been at practices. I squeezed my friend Masani’s hand and the third name coach called was hers. She got up and walked over to the circle of varsity cheerleaders. My heart beat faster and harder as more names were called and I knew they were running out of spots. After about 12 people, I heard “Kheri.” I got up and was smiling so big.
Cheering for the varsity football team is more fun. The crowds are bigger and we’re not just doing cheers and chants, we’re also doing dances while the band plays. The dances are becoming my favorite part because they’re more entertaining than just cheering. And I’m not cheering for the JV team under the hot sun on Thursday afternoons, but the bright lights on Friday nights.