I’m not, nor have I ever been, a sporty person. In fact, I basically repel gym equipment. One fateful day in a Y9 PE class, we were instructed to dribble a basketball to the end of a line, throw it at a wall, catch it on its return, and dribble it back for the next person. Simple, right? I got the dribbling down, but after throwing it a tad too hard at the wall, it bounced back, hit me full in the face, and I fell to the floor in front of an entire class. It’s taken me a good few years to laugh about it, but that should tell you all you need to know about my athleticism.
So.. when I walked towards the glittery Bristol Jets stand at Freshers Fair last September, I found myself wishing that I could- just for once –not make an idiot out of myself and instead be one of those girls that make looking glamorous whilst doing sport look easy.
I bottled, skipped quickly past the stand… and then thought ‘why not?’. Why not give it a go? What had I got to lose? I walked back, the pom poms acting like magnets, and approached one of the smiley (but still fiercely intimidating to a fresher) older girls waving flyers. She insisted that the club was all inclusive and that no experience was needed, so I put my name down and took a cute postcard detailing the time and place of tryouts.
After getting home to discover that my new flatmate (now one of my best friends) had also signed up for tryouts, fear turned to excitement.. which turned back to fear in no time at all after actually arriving at the gym the following Wednesday afternoon. So many girls in fancy sportswear looking like they had just walked off a Nike ad campaign and I freaked. After being given numbers, and instructions on what the tests would be, we got started working our way round stations practicing dance, basic stunts and gymnastics (shudder). Without Sophie there, assuring me it would all be okay and I would survive this, I would have bolted within the first few minutes. But it was something I wanted to do.. and she happens to be ridiculously calm in stressful situations.
Just to give you some idea of the potential embarrassment I had brought upon myself, I can’t do a handstand. Or a cartwheel. I can just about manage a forward roll. Yeah, I questioned what I was doing there too. But the girls were lovely and not one negative comment was made.
I’d been told that Jets were all-inclusive.. but I had assumed this was just a line and that I would soon get an email saying ‘sorry, but you have been unsuccessful’. Instead, I was placed in Gameday- the non competitive team who attend uni games and put on a Varsity routine. This was taken at the first (basketball) game we cheered for..
Since then, I’ve spent Sundays waving poms supporting American football, and evenings practising stunts with girls who became some of my closest friends at uni. I went to Croatia for four days of dancing at Easter, and did three varsity performances without falling over once. I’ve learnt new skills, done heaps more exercise than ever before and met some of the sassiest and loveliest girls you can imagine.
It might sound cheesy, but joining cheer has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. If you’re starting uni this September, my main piece of advice would be to just try things. If you think you’ll fail or people will laugh, do it anyway. How they managed to keep a straight face when I attempted a cartwheel before collapsing in a heap at tryouts I’ll never know, but the bitchy cheerleader stereotype was well and truly proven wrong.
As always, don’t let what people might say stop you from doing what you want, because 9 times out of 10 they’ll be much kinder than you think, and the other 1? They’re not worth worrying over.
‘Don’t let the fear of what could happen make nothing happen