By Karon Liu
It takes a real man to admit that he auditioned for the cheerleading club, made it, and decided to stay.
The thing is, it shouldn’t take any bravery to say that you’re a cheerleader. Even though Ryerson doesn’t recognize it as a sport, after spending years watching ESPN cheerleading competitions I learned that it is just as hardcore as hockey when it comes to broken limbs, bruises and missing teeth. I wanted to show the school that cheerleading requires stamina, strength and discipline just like any other sport out there. I mean, speed-walking? C’mon!
The yellow fluorescent lights in the lower gym illuminated about 30 petite girls as they warmed up in black short-shorts and colourful baby T’s. Now in its third year, the cheerleading club is hoping to win the regional competition after placing second in the last two.
We were quickly split into groups of six to learn how to perform double bases and cradles, basic moves required for pyramids. I’m now well on my way to starring in Bring it On IV: Soon to be Very Sore. Two people act as “bases” and the “flyer” steps on their hands and is launched into the air. A “third” stands behind the flyer to help lift her.
Third-year engineering student Rob Kingston, the only male member at that time, was there to spot us. After many failed lifts resulting in a pile of tangled limbs and mangled enthusiasm, Rob pulled us aside. “It’s all in the legs,” he demonstrated. “Your arms shouldn’t be doing the lifting. Bring her foot close to your chest when you lift her up so that your chest can take most of the weight.”
With a clearer vision of perfect execution, we all shouted simultaneously, “Ready base? One, two, down, up!”
I moved my hands closer to my chest as we successfully hoisted the flyer closer to the gym’s ceiling and gently formed a human basket with our arms to welcome her landing.
As the girls learned a dance routine, Rob taught me how to do a toss, which is the official term for throwing your girl in the air like you just don’t care.
Third-year fashion student Mai Ng bravely volunteered to be my human rag doll. I grabbed her tiny waist, bent my knees and shot up under my awesome Kumon math power.
It looked like I was giving her the Heimlich maneuver as she barely went two feet in the air.
Christina took a break from watching the dancers to help me before I made Mai upchuck her lunch.
“You have to launch her with all your might,” Christina explained, “flick her away with your fingers if you have to.”
My biggest concern wasn’t catapulting Mai into other cheerleaders; it was the look on her face when my hand almost pulled her shorts down as I was trying to guide her back down.
I apologized as she adjusted herself and she says, “It’s OK, you’ll get it.”
Now it was time to learn the jumps: toe-touches, pikes and Herkies. The toe-touch consists of doing the splits in mid-air. The Herkie has one leg is extended in the front and the other bent back (like a dog taking a piss). The hardest of the three is the pike where both feet extend forward. Three words: Bring. It. On. The jump itself is easy, but performing it in front of everyone reminded me of standing at the other end of a judgmental firing squad.
I got into position, raised my fists into the air, bent my knees and exerted all my might into my sneakers until they sunk an inch into the mat. Then like a loaded cannon I blasted three or four feet straight into the air and kicked my legs out into a toe-touch. The crowd roared with applause and shouts of “Way to go,” and, my favourite, a distant whisper of “Imagine what he can do with a trampoline!”
With that, the tryouts were over and everyone filed out the double doors after more than three exhausting hours.
The results were posted the next day, but my eagerness made me call coach Christina instead to hear the results.
“You did really good,” Christina said. “I’d give you an A since you made it.”
The next time someone says cheerleading is not a sport, they better watch out or they’ll be getting a swift toe-touch up the ass. This means you, Robyn Doolittle.