Daily Archives: August 9, 2013

Why cheerleaders make great softball players

It’s a pretty common practice in every sport for the athletes to make fun of cheerleaders – even if they’re teammates – and fastpitch softball is no exception. Players will do little singsongy imitations, or mimic the movements, while everyone else laughs and throws out little barbs.

The implication, of course, is that cheerleading isn’t really a sport, and that those who participate in it are prissy girls more concerned with their hair and makeup than being true athletes.

Well, I’ve coached a few softball players who happen to also be cheerleaders, and I can tell you from first-hand experience they are usually the epitome of the type of player you want on a softball team. In fact, they have a number of desirable attributes, including:

  • Great core strength. We always talk about the need for players to develop core strength. Cheerleaders walk in the door with it. All the tumbling/holding people up/throwing people around forces them to develop great cores. Don’t believe me? Have your team do a plank and see who folds last.

  • Great balance and flexibility. They work on those attributes all the time. In fact, everything cheerleaders do (short of sitting on a homecoming float) requires them to have balance and flexibility that’s far above the average person.

  • Physical toughness. Cheerleaders are much like gymnasts in their ability to ignore pain. Those who have done it can probably speak to it better than I can, but from what I’ve seen cheerleaders always have a sprained or bruised something. But they’ve learned how to ignore it, especially when it occurs in mid-performance. Maybe they’re always afraid of being replaced, but you’ll rarely hear a cheerleader ask to come out of a game because of an injury.

  • Intense focus. Cheerleading routines tend to be fairly intricate and dangerous, which means you either learn to focus fast or someone gets hurt. Cheerleaders seem to know how to be in the moment when they’re playing. They also understand how to focus at practice or lessons, which makes them much more productive.

  • A sense of team. While it’s true that athletics tend to be a social activity for nearly all females, there is an additional sense of team that cheerleaders develop. Maybe it’s the nature of what they do, crossing the line between athlete and performer. Maybe it’s because everyone else simultaneously despises and envies them so they have to stick together. Whatever it is, in my experience that sense of team carries over to their other activities, making them great teammates. Even when they are the butt of the joke.

The one downside these days is that like every other sport or activity, cheerleading does demand a lot of the participant’s time. Which means they may not make every practice the team has – especially if the cheerleading coach has a “miss one and you’re done” rule. You have to decide if the positives outweigh the negatives.

So yeah, make fun of them if you feel you must. But if you have the opportunity to put one on your team, grab it! You won’t be sorry.

What other attributes have you found cheerleaders possess? Are there other sports/activities that lend themselves to making great softball players?

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