Thursday, July 03, 2008

Cheer Like You Mean It

I just finished Kate Torgovnick's Cheer: Three Teams on a Quest for College Cheerleading's Ultimate Prize and the first thing I had to do was head over to YouTube to find a video of the teams I'd just read about. Lucky for me, in addition to being able to look for the teams (Memphis All-Girl Tigers, Southern University Jaguars, and Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks) I found a video put together to promote the book.

It was a little difficult to imagine the sequences Torgovnick was describing in words, simply because cheerleading is such a demanding sport and not one that gets anywhere near as much play as, say, baseball. Unlike a game with set basic skills, like running, hitting the ball, throwing and catching, cheerleading involves gymnastics and tons of moves quite unfamiliar to the layperson. The book was a great thrilling read, particularly in the descriptions of the championships; I was on edge waiting to get to each team's results.

What I was hoping for was more exploration of the cheerleaders as people; Torgovnick does talk to some cheerleaders who are injured in practice, and meets one who struggles with bulimia. But these interludes are secondary to following the teams' performances. We don't know what will happen to these cheerleaders when they finish college, we don't learn what they study in school, or much about them outside of their athletic field. While the author starts with an introduction explaining that she isn't going to explore the mythic American Cheerleader, she doesn't do much to flesh out her subjects as three-dimensional people off the mat, which might have helped the reader to identify more with them.

2 responses:

Anonymous said...

I wasn't a college cheerleader, but I cheered in junior high and high schools, and I can tell you that the demand to be rail thin was horrible! I'm of Latin descent, I matured early, and therefore had the curvaceous body of a typical Latin woman by the time I was 12, 13, 14 (somewhere in there) so to DEMAND that I lose weight and conform my body to that demand was completely ridiculous. It wasn't going to happen, and thankfully I was strong enough to tell the coaches to piss off but I know other girls in my squad, especially in high school, who didn't have this courage.

KEHutchinson said...

Thanks for sharing your experience, uncensoredfeminista. This is the sort of discussion I was hoping to find more of in the book. But on the other hand, I appreciated that the author was respecting cheerleading as a sport more than anything else.

Did your coaches actually tell you to loose weight, or put you on the sidelines because of your body type?

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