Monday, March 13, 2006


A few years ago, I read the excellent "We've Got Spirit," a book about a national cheerleading powerhouse high school in Kentucky. It's an amazing look behind the scenes of the lives of the girls and the staff -- their fears, their experiences, their tears, their thrills. These girls are not just waving pom-poms, they're doing flips and back tucks and handsprings and looking more like Olympic gymnasts than what most of us think of as cheerleaders.

In the book, there's one girl who had a mental block against doing a back tuck (where you jump backwards from a standing position and totally flip over and land on your feet -- gee, I can't imagine why anyone would be afraid to do that, except, it's INSANE). Over and over she tries, and over and over she freaks out. The book is written so well that you are inside her head with her, and you can feel that she knows how, but she's just unable to force herself over that line.

Now Lifetime has turned TV cameras on one of Kentucky's elite cheer squads, and "Cheerleader Nation" (link has audio) is the resulting show. And wouldn't you know it, on the show, too, there's a girl who just can't make herself jump, and to see here standing there, at auditions, willing herself to flip and still standing rooted to the spot, is just agony. It's part of what makes the show excellent and addictive. And what makes me thankful I'm not in high school anymore.


Rebecca said...

When one of the freshman was saying how she looked up to the seniors and how they were so mature and knew what they were doing, I just wanted to say, "Oh, honey, they haven't got a clue either."

But I'll tell you, this looks like another good documentary series. And I wasn't even a cheerleader!

Anonymous said...

So do they profile any of the people who have been paralyzed by doing those stupid tricks?

Anonymous said...

I'm excited about this documentary, because I'm excited about lots of acts of what I'll call 'actual' feminism, which means that it's cool to feel good about yourself as a girl, whether you're doing stereotypically 'girly' things (like cheerleading) or not (like soccer). I really enjoyed the story of the senior who decided to do cheerleading as her sport instead of soccer. It wasn't a value judgement either way; it was a choice that she made to do something she thought would be challenging and fun.

The freshman (Taylor? Who had the mental block?) so heartbreaking, really, because I've been right there. And the base girl who fell doing the lift--also brought back painful memories. The 'advertised' injuries about the sport are always about the flyers; I swear my carpal tunnel is more from boosting 100-pound girls for years than typing.