“Mom, I want to do that!” Those six words were the start of something new. My daughter spotted the competitive cheerleaders walking into the gym in their practice uniforms getting ready to warm up, while she was finishing up her tumbling class. My daughter had been taking some recreational gymnastics, dance and tumbling classes on and off, but competitive cheer? This was new.
Fast forward a few years. Jayda has been doing cheer stuff for a couple of years now. It’s one of those things you either know a lot about, or you really know nothing about. But now Netflix has a docuseries that’s giving a behind the scenes look at competitive cheerleading, and I’m excited to talk to more people about it now that you’ve all seen a taste of what it’s like.
I’m still relatively new to the cheer mom space. She started three years ago but this is our first year at a large gym, which feel like an entirely different animal. We’ve learned a lot along the way, and I adore supporting my daughter in this hobby she loves.
Before I go on, if you didn’t already know, we share a lot of this side of our lives on Youtube versus here on my blog. Somewhere along the way in our journey we started a cheer vlog and my channel has become our channel. I love it though, and it’s been fun to see the little community we’ve grown along the way.
Jayda and I finished watching CHEER on Netflix yesterday and I have some thoughts. Overall we really enjoyed it. I love any chance for the world to see how intense and amazing this sport is (yes, hopefully by now you consider this a sport). But I’m not going to turn this blog post into a review. Instead I’ll answer some of your questions that you’ve been sending me in DMs on Instagram, and ones I saved from the question box. If I didn’t answer yours drop it in the comments and I’ll respond there.
Are you letting your daughter watch CHEER on Netflix?
While I don’t typically let her watch with TV-14 shows, especially ones with some harsh language, and mature issues like stolen nude photos, child abuse, and suicide attempts. I saw this docuseries as a chance for her and I to bond and if she had questions along the way we talked about some of those issues. We took it slow and watched part of an episode every few days. A little more on weekends. If you’re unsure if it’s appropriate for your younger child I’d give it a watch first. Or plan on fast forwarding through some of the topics that may not be age appropriate.
If you really enjoyed CHEER on Neflix, look up the Twinkles documentary. It’s free on Youtube and shows the live of the type of competitive cheer Jayda does with girls her age (though again, a way more advanced level team).
When did your daughter start cheering? Did she do gymnastics before?
She started competitive cheerleading in the summer before first grade. Right after she turned 7. She did a little bit of dance and tumbling. She saw the competitive cheerleaders coming in the gym one day and liked their uniforms and said she wanted to do that so we decided to give it a try.
Isn’t that her gym on the show? Is she in the Netflix show?
The first couple of episodes feature a lot of her gym: Cheer Athletics. But the one it’s featuring I believe is their main location in Plano, TX. We are at the Austin gym.
That stuff looks scary. Are you worried about her getting hurt?
Jayda is a “top girl” or “flyer,” which means she gets tossed up in the air and sometimes she comes back down… To the ground. I do worry about her getting hurt but I honestly don’t watch them practice much so I don’t get to see the mistakes. I typically just watch when they’re performing for the parents or competing at the competition. So by then they have the routine figured out and by then I’m not as worried about her getting hurt as I am about the team messing up. It’s always a possibility though. Our gym has concussion helmets on hand and ready if any of the girls would like to use them while they’re practicing stunting. I see a lot of the older, most advanced (read difficult stunts) girls using them.
How much does competitive cheerleading cost?
Oh boy. As a wannabe frugal-lifestyle mom, the cost of competitive cheer pains me. I could pretend that the money is well-spent and will be worth it when she earns a college scholarship. But the truth is, with monthly all-star tuition, extra classes and private lessons (which we are currently taking a break from to save $$), uniforms, shoes, other cheer gear paying for tickets to actually WATCH her compete, competition travel/hotels etc, I will likely not be getting a full return on my investment. In fact, if I put all the money we were spending in a high yield college savings account I could probably pay for her college. So I’m not fooling myself and saying that’s why we’re doing it. But though it may not be a direct investment towards her potential college scholarships, I see it as an investment in her personal growth. She’s gained so much confidence, pride and enjoyment in her new skills. It’s also really helped her learn how to set and work towards her goals. I can’t exactly put a price on that.
Do you find the sport to be very diverse?
Not necessarily. At least not where we live. I love how the Netflix show featured athletes from different backgrounds, but on Jayda’s squads she’s been the only black girl, or in the past, one of two. But we’re out there. We don’t get the spotlight as much, but I try to show her the diversity that is out there. I love the instagram handle @BlackGirlsCheer. I get excited when I see more of us. But I would love to see the sport grow in diversity.
Who is this Gabi Butler chick?
Honestly I wasn’t sure until the show either. I’m not immersed in the cheer world, but I asked one of the cheerleaders who carpools with us and she said she’s followed her for years. I guess she’s a long-time competitive cheerleader and she’s been on a couple of other cheer shows in the past. She’s known as a “Cheerlebirty.” And she’s talented, so a lot of athletes look up to her. Personally, the only one I I really like to follow is Angel Rice (and now Jerry of course). Her tumbling is incredible! I’m sure that list may grow as we get more immersed in this world.
Is her squad going to compete in Daytona?
No. Her team will compete in their National Cheerleading Competition (NCA) in Dallas next month! That’s our “big” competition of the season, and where a lot of the great all-star teams compete. This year will be Jayda’s first time attending.
How does what she does compare to what they did on the show?
So competitive cheerleading (all-star cheer) is broken down by levels and age groups. What you saw on Netflix was a competition on the college level and a MUCH higher difficulty. Jayda is on a level 2 small junior team. They do difficult stunts but not that difficult. It’s all kind of complicated to explain. But just know that their moves aren’t nearly as crazy as what you saw on that show. Maybe someday. But it’ll take a lot of work for her to get to that level, if she even wants to.
Does Jayda want to cheer at Navarro College?
I’d never even heard of that school until the show! She has a photo of the BYU cheerleading squad on her vision board. I don’t think CHEER changed her mind about that. But Navarro would be closer to home.
I’d like to edit my own cheer vlogs, what software do you recommend?
We use final cut pro. But iMovie is a great free editing option. There are also a lot of editing programs you can use on your phone. I like inShot and Spark Camera.
How do you balance it all? FLYING to competitions? Say what?!
Yea, cheer mom life can be a lot. I feel bad at how much I miss seeing the rest of the family when Jayda and I are “away at cheer.” In December it felt like we were always at the gym or away for competitions. Combine that with the fact that the gym is 45 minutes away and it’s a lot. This year we’ve tried to balance this by taking a break from the extra classes and private lessons. This means she hasn’t been able to learn new skills, but with this being a larger and more competitive cheer gym, we’re just taking this year to ease our way into it all. Next year we may step it up a bit.
What’s involved in getting stage ready for a competition? Hair? Makeup?
Usually just a red lipstick and a tiny bit of mascara. Some teams do a lot more makeup with blue liner and shadows. The team she’s on this year isn’t so intense. And thankfully her team’s hairstyle is very simple. Slick back high ponytail with a scrunchie. The coaches require you straighten your hair IF it is not naturally curly (I almost passed out before he added that last part). Thankfully for Jayda, that makes doing her hair really simple. I’ve heard some horror stories about girls with natural hair having trouble on their teams but we’ve had nothing but good experiences so far. You can watch me get her ready in this vlog.
How did you help her find her sport?
I answered this a little bit above, but mostly I just let her try a lot of things. She was definitely drawn to active and social activities. She can talk a little more in cheer than she could in dance and I think she likes that. In the past I was more on top of her about practicing. This year I’ve stepped back and just been more of a spectator and cheerleader for her. I’m not even sure I’m very deserving of the title “cheer mom” at my current level of chill.
What kind of time commitment is it?
We have practices three times a week for two hours each time. Sometimes more if it’s a competition week. For NCA week (also dubbed Hell week) we will probably be practicing every night. During competition season, we have a lot of out of town competitions, which means overnight stays at hotels.
What workouts does she do for flexibility?
She does a lot of splits and backbends. I can see her improve a lot the more she works on it. I haven’t been encouraging (read: nagging) her to practice and stretch as much this year. I’m hoping she will develop some self-motivation techniques. I think in a sport like this you really have to want it for you. Not your mama, or anyone else.
When are you posting more videos of Jayda?
I’m sorry to all of the tweens who miss all of Jayda’s IG tumbling videos and our vlogs (it makes me smile when I get a random IG DM from ya’ll). We’re working on a system to get these up more regularly again. I must admit, it’s really fun to go back and watch her progress. Keep reminding us, and we’ll try to get in the habit!
Have more questions? Maybe we answered it in this Q and A video
Still didn’t catch it? Leave a comment and I’ll reply!