Cheering has changed my life

Anna Parel, left, and Hadley Neal

Anna Parel, left, and Hadley Neal

On Saturday March 17, the middle school, JV and varsity cheerleaders will have cheerleading tryouts.

I know how many of the girls who will be trying out for the first time will feel.

I’ve been there. I’ve felt the same butterflies. I’ve had the same nervous feeling.

In middle school I never suspected cheerleading would become “my thing.’’ I joined the basketball cheer team on a whim in the eighth grade. My friends already were on the team and tried and convince me to join as well.

“It will be fun!!”

“Please, you would look so cute!!”

“If you don’t like it, you can quit after basketball!!”

Their insisting finally persuaded me to join.

Basketball season started. To say the least, I was not a good cheerleader. I could not learn the cheers as well as everyone else, my jumps barely got off the ground and my clapping always was offbeat.

Wearing the cheer uniform always made me feel like I was a part of the Stratford community and gave me a strong sense of Eagle Pride.”

— Anna Parel

However, for some reason I still enjoyed it. It was fun being a part of something all my friends liked doing as well. Wearing the cheer uniform always made me feel like I was a part of the Stratford community and gave me a strong sense of “Eagle Pride.”

When tryouts for freshman year came around, I was eager to make the team again. However, this time it would not be so easy. I had never experienced a tryout before and did not have as much of a cheer background as the rest of the girls. So, I tried not to get my hopes up.

Tryouts were nerve-racking. Before the results came out, I decided I would not worry about it too much or be disappointed if I did not make it. However, a part of me secretly really wanted to be on the team.

The night the team was announced I was ecstatic to see my name on the list. Within a few weeks following tryouts, we got to try on uniforms for JV cheerleading. As if I wasn’t already happy enough to be a JV cheerleader, this increased my excitement even more.

In July, the other freshmen and I got to experience our first cheer camp at the University of Georgia. And ask any cheerleader at Stratford … cheer camp is surprisingly difficult. We woke up at 6 every morning and walked several miles to and from the dorms, gyms and cafeterias. We usually didn’t return to our dorms until about 10 p.m. and most times weren’t asleep until after midnight.

Being one of the smallest ones on the team, I was given the position of flyer in my stunt group. Similar to how I was when I first learned cheers and dances, I was not very good at stunting. I often became nervous and wobbly. During the final competition, I ended up falling off of our stunt. However, the week ended positively with the Stratford JV and Varsity teams winning the spirit banana.

We returned from camp with excitement and confidence in the new year. JV season started, and my nerves began to diminish as I became more comfortable performing in front of groups. My courage decreased when our cheer coach told us we would be performing a dance with stunts in front of the high school during a pep rally. I was afraid I would fall, similar to my tumble during the cheer competition. Fortunately, I was mistaken. My fears abated and my confidence increased when I successfully completed the stunt.

Since that experience in the ninth grade, my determination and spirit in front of crowds has risen. This shines through in other activities I do outside of school. It has made me more comfortable to have conversations with my peers and has helped improve my confidence.

Overall, without my decision to join the cheer team, I don’t think I would be the same person I am today.