How about a little respect?

After three hours of a summer practice, I’m sweaty, bruised and have gone to see trainer Milo Sini about getting my wrist wrapped at least twice. My teammates and I have gone through 7 a.m. morning runs, hours of sit-ups and countless burpees. Like many other varsity athletes, we dedicate our after-school and many weekend hours to practicing and being at games. However, through the eyes of too many students around campus, cheerleading is just a joke.

True, we don’t practice on the field like football, field hockey or soccer players do. And our silver poms replace basketballs, baseballs and golf balls. But like all other athletes, cheerleaders devote time and energy to being part of a committed team.

I’ve had various encounters in which my peers and even faculty members have pointed out that cheerleading isn’t a sport.

More than once I’ve gotten home at 9:30 p.m. after cheering at a football game and not received the same sympathy from a teacher as the football player next to me. I’ve almost become accustomed to the dismissive look I get when I reply to others that I do, in fact, play a sport. I’m not saying that cheerleading is more of a sport than football is, and I completely understand that cheerleading doesn’t require the same level of academic intellect as debate or competitive rigor as football. All I’m asking is that our community respect our team just like any other.

Apparently, even to some of my friends, wearing makeup and sparkly bows and performing dance routines during halftime isn’t athleticism. According to them, because we’re on the sidelines instead of on the court, we shouldn’t consider ourselves athletic.

But I’d like to ask them to physically lift their teammates up into extensions and throw them into cradles. I’d like to see them make human pyramids and catch people mid-air.

Cheerleaders have had their fair share of broken limbs, and we work hard to make our stunts look as good as they do. Yes, sometimes our stunts do fail, and our dances aren’t always perfectly in sync. But why does that make it acceptable to label our whole team as a failure, when a failed play in basketball might easily be excused?

It’s not even the physical requirements of cheerleading that validate it as a sport. I’m not saying that our summer ab workouts or all the push-ups we do for each touchdown make cheer the sport that it is. It’s rather the dedication of each individual cheerleader that deserves a certain respect from others on campus.

We cheerleaders are supposed to boost the morale at games and to raise school spirit, so we definitely don’t need negative feedback from our own community.

Who is there to cheer for the underrated girls’ basketball team when the stands are almost empty? Where is everybody during non-Loyola, away football games? I, for sure, can answer that the cheerleading squad has been there to support our athletes more than any other group on campus.

It takes a lot of confidence to be able to perform in front of large audiences, especially when they’re already upset about losing scores. Through these experiences and since my ninth grade tryout, I’ve definitely grown both mentally and physically into a team player.

So when I hear my friends joking about joining the cheer team, mocking our cheers or objectifying us by making inappropriate comments about our dance moves and uniforms, it makes me question how supportive our peers and even my friends are at a school where we’re supposed to value the meaning of community.

We aren’t the cheerleaders who compete in tournaments with impossible routines and extreme tumbling skills. Neither are we the clichéd most popular kids on campus. We are simply a group of students who dedicate their time to making sure our school’s athletes get the support they deserve and also to becoming more flexible, fit and hardworking.

There’s obviously no need to worship any cheerleader on campus as an all-star athlete, but what I’m asking is that we give cheerleaders the respect they deserve for being there to support our school community.

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