If you are new to cheerleading, you are in for an exciting ride! There's a lot to love about cheerleading, and you are about to meet some people who will become your second family. But while cheerleading is an absolute blast, there are some important things for you to know as you begin this amazing journey. Here are the top five things new cheerleaders need to know:

  1. Cheerleading can be expensive. You can take steps to minimize costs though, so don't let this discourage you! One reason cheerleading tends to be expensive is because at many schools it isn't considered an official sport, so cheerleaders are left to pay all the costs out of pocket, whereas other sports get funding from the school district. If you're on an All Star squad, the costs are even higher as you have to pay gym fees as well as travel and competition costs. Those things are out of your control other than researching the initial costs of different teams and choosing one that you are comfortable with. Another chunk of cheer costs comes from buying cheer gear. This is one that you can manage though! Many people just give into cheerleading being expensive and assume they have no other option than paying for expensive uniforms, shoes, and other cheer gear. You really can find quality cheer gear for a good price though. Look for cheer companies that offer a low price guarantee. That way you know you are getting the best deal on shoes, spankies, pom poms, uniforms, etc.

  2. Cheerleading requires specific gear. Even as you look for companies that offer budget-friendly gear, know that you need products that are designed specifically for cheerleading. This means you can't just go to the nearest sports store and find the right practice wear and shoes. You need shoes that are made for the movements of cheerleading. That means you can't wear just any athletic shoes and you shouldn't use your cheer shoes for non-cheer activities like running or strength training. It's the same with clothes. You need practice wear that is designed for the movements of cheerleading. You don't want to cheer in baggy clothes that are going to get in the way.

  3. Cheerleading can be dangerous. There is no getting around this fact, but there are steps you can take to keep yourself safe. For one thing, make sure you wear the right gear. Proper foot support will prevent injuries, and appropriate clothing will keep you and your teammates safe since fingers can get caught in loose or worn-out clothing when you're stunting or tumbling. The most serious cheerleading injuries though are head injuries. To prevent these, make sure your coach is properly trained and ask her or him what safety measures are in place. Never perform a skill you aren't ready for or don't feel comfortable doing.

  4. Cheerleaders have multiple roles. Stunting, tumbling, chanting, and dancing may get the most attention, but really you are an ambassador for your school and team. This means you have a presence at school and community events, you give back to the community, you support important causes, you raise school spirit by leading the crowd at games and making posters and signs to put around the school, you plan fundraisers, you lead pep rallies and Homecoming events, and you support the sports teams by cheering them on at games and pumping them up by doing things like decorating their lockers. You will learn quickly that a cheerleader does more than show up at games to cheer on the team.

  5. Cheerleading takes commitment. As you can tell from the above, cheerleading is a lot to take on. Being a cheerleader requires a lot of time and energy. Make sure you talk to the coach early on to get an idea of how much time you will need to dedicate to cheerleading so you know what to expect. You will definitely need to plan carefully so you can manage your time. For example, if you know you have a big week at school coming up, you'll want to get as much schoolwork done beforehand as possible so you aren't stressed that week trying to juggle your cheer and school responsibilities. Talk to older cheerleaders on your squad to get advice for how they manage their time and workload. You can even find inspiring stories online about how committed cheerleaders are to their sport, like this Chassé® video that features interviews with Maddie Gardner and some of the Cheer Channel Superstars of All-Stars.

What other questions do you have about starting cheerleading? Experienced cheerleaders, what else do new cheerleaders need to know?