Now that I think, I am glad I did cheerleading outside of school. I was in a Japanese community with strict Japanese rules which is tougher compared to inside school activities. An example I could give is mainly manners and also they only gave us 30sec of water breaks. After a water break, we needed to run to not lose time. Well, before we go into details about my wellness, let me introduce my team. My local team, Shibaura Angeles, is a very top level and famous cheerleading club in Japan. A lot of people in other teams admire us for our performances and level of skills. There, I was in the very top class named EXTREME. We usually have practice 2 times a week for 2 hours, however, during competition month-3 times a week with 4hours of practice on weekends. The Extreme is meant to be role models for outside teams and the teams for our own club. We had pressures to be good role models for perfect performance, perfect energy and of course, manner as well. I have been in the Extreme team for a lot of years and it strongly taught me 3 basics of wellness: mental, physical and emotional. Reflecting back now, I became a better adult and become a strong athlete.
Physical is a very important strength in Cheerleading. We use a lot of strength and power to move, tumble and also to lift people up. Thus, cheerleading uses a lot of energy compared to any other sports because we use our brain and we use our full body. Cheerleading has no rest between music unline running, swimming or there is no distance/time decided. In addition, running is a one-way track/path, however, in cheerleading, we have to move up and down, left to right, flip back and forward and so on. All these strengths I used in cheerleading gave me a strong physical condition. I personally still do struggle to breathe in and out while practicing my performance. Depending on how much you emphasize and give energy in performance, the more strength you will need. Yet, 6 years old strong training still makes me throw up sometimes on the mat.
In my local team, we warm up 15 minutes of running and we go straight to jump practice. We usually jump for 30 minutes. Then, depending on the days, we have our own personal trainer who trains us full body such as cardio, muscles, and for strong movements for an hour. Personally, I like to do my own training such as going to the gym on my own time. In addition to getting my own personal trainer outside of the club to understand the places, I am weak at. It helped me a lot to be a strong athlete and has helped me feel easier to train during practice.
Furthermore, cheerleading is a very competitive sports inside the club and outside of the club. This means that we do act like a family but most of the people have rivals for spots. Since it is a performance, it is better to have good spots such as in the middle front or the middle to start off with. Those are the best positions because everyone can see you and it shows the audience that you are skillful. Personally, I didn’t have any rials or never felt pressured by the people around me. Not in my local cheerleading club. However, I did have an emotional breakdown from a lack of performances. First of all, I got emotionally stressed on my knee and my ankle which connected to my performances in competition. Since we perform all together and showing a miss during a competition is a huge thing. I used to have it a lot when I was new to cheerleading and even though in practice you show no miss in performance due to the lack of confidence and nervousness, I used to show a lot of miss aka tumbling misses. Emotionally, I felt guilt and sorryful for not perfecting my performance. My emotions decrease even further when my coach stopped using me to tumble and gave me bad spots when creating a new routine. The atmosphere from the coaches gave me a strong message of disappointment in my performing skills and I knew I was ranked down in their favorite list.
To change myself, what I did was I went on a diet during the summer. I knew myself I was very heavy and due to the cause of my weight, I wasn’t able to show good strength, good performances, and injuries. Through the process of running a lot and only eating 2 meals I day, I ended up losing at least 8kg in 10month. Luckily, I was right about my weight needed to be changed. My body was lighter and easier for me to move around. I developed my tumbling skills in less than a year with different varieties of tumbling skills. This bumped my emotions up and acing all my performances after my diet. In addition, this has mentally supported me by loving who myself even better and gave me more confidence in each competition that I have performed really well.
Through the process of experiencing a roller coaster of physical, mental and emotional, the local team was just a practice. As I walk the path to become more competitive, I tried out of to be a representative of JAPAN: TEAM JAPAN 2017. Then, I started to call myself an elite athlete. Compared to my local team, it was a whole new level. More competition, more strength, more injuries, more pressured by others and strict coaches.
Here, my mental has improved the most. As an elite cheerleader, mental is the most significant thing at the end because we need to believe each other and most importantly, in yourself to achieve our own goals and to perform the best you can but generally, mental was tough. The camps were basically a full day from 5:00am to 10:00pm or maybe until 00:00am if the coach doesn’t accept on our practice routine. As mentioned, listening to this, it is mentally tough to follow. What I learned from here is that I learned how to keep my energy and when I should take rest during the practices. Since we are not allowed to sit down or yawn, I needed to play smart and understand my energy level which is why mental was a huge thing.
Moreover, as the level of skill increases- the harder your levels are, there is more pressure to performance 100% clean. Unlike math, there is no formula or an independent valuable because humans are different every day. We all act differently every day. If we act the same 365 days we are robots. THus, competing in a competition like ICU- International cheer union- also a cheerleading Olympics and WORLD, is pressured. Pressured than your final exams. I actually don’t know how I did it but I know myself that I am mentally strong in performing. I used to shake when I step on the mat however, i may still do but I know it feels different. I like to perform now and I like people to watch me and to take pictures which is why I know mentally I have improved so much. When I perform I like to say ‘ you are the star, you are the no.1 and just do it.’ – always gives me 100% performance.
All in all, TEAM JAPAN- representing Japan has strongly given me such good education on psychical, emotional and mental. However, due to the support of my local cheerleading team, gave me ‘a practice’ or I should say prepared myself before TEAM JAPAN and because of that, I am now who I am and I was able to develop myself even further. I Psychical can always help me with different sports such as volleyball because I do play volleyball as a school sport. What I thought was if people want to be physically strong inside, you also have to be emotionally and mentally strong as well to show 100% performance. All these years of cheerleading mainly taught me how to be a good athlete. Emotionally and mentally could also help me in presenting a presentation or dance in front of the class because a good performance or presentation can’t be good unless you feel confident.