Don’t forget to freaking graduate!
I was never a great cheerleader. I could stunt decently, was a shoulder stand for most all pyramids, threw baskets with good height, and had a back tuck once in a blue moon by the end. Honestly, my best ability was probably being a game cheerleader, I had energy out there and had fun entertaining. However, I think I might have an American record in being the only cheerleader that has gotten a degree from each school he cheered at (just like powerlifting if you go obscure enough you will find a record). I cheered for Missouri State in my undergrad, Saint Louis University during my masters, and the University of Kansas during my doctorate. Cheerleading (when I did it) didn’t have limits on how long you can participate in it. One thing I have seen from each school that I cheered at is the number of people that either never get a degree or take five or more years to do so. I’m all for everyone living their own life, but when it comes to collegiate cheerleading your goal is not to make it a career (as an athlete that is). So practice hard, train hard, have fun, but go to your damn classes.
I can’t tell you how many semesters would end and we had teammates that were either kicked off for grades, or on probation for them. You are cheering in college to get an education and have fun competing. You are not here just to compete. If you want that, then be the old person on an all-star squad. So with the idea in mind that you are cheering in college to get a degree and do something other than be a journeyman cheerleader hopping from university to university, here are a few things to keep in mind:
You have no choice.
By that I mean, you go to class and do your work. No questions asked, no complaining about how hard your classes are or how the teacher was mean. I teach at a university and I’m always surprised at the number of students that are literally scared to talk to me about their grades, and don’t ask how to be successful (which I outline in the syllabus and talk about in class). My goal as an educator is to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge and skills (aka teach). Now, the material I teach is scientific in an area that doesn’t always have as much experience in science (physical education majors, fitness/wellness majors, etc.). There is nothing wrong with that, but the limited science background some of these kids come from can make the learning curve seem steep, and can discourage students that aren’t experienced in this area. Guess how you get better at your classes? You study the material and ask questions.
I want every student that takes my courses to do well. I would like it if I could legitimately give every one of my students an “A” because they legitimately earned it. As an educator if everyone did their readings before class we could have much better classroom discussions of greater breadth and depth if people just did the work instead of having a conversation with half the class and the rest frantically taking notes and looking mildly confused. (Protip: the one that looks different from the others always sticks out, so if you are the one person looking at your phone, falling asleep, or looking scared the teacher in the front of the room will notice this fact.)
Know your path
In your major you need to look at your own course catalog and see what courses that you need to take to graduate. Sounds crazy right? Take the time to get ownership of your own course program and find out if you need to take summer school, more classes in a semester, and the order of classes. When you set up your plan you know what you need to do in order to graduate. Some classes are only offered in the spring or in the fall, others require prerequisites so you need to take them in the correct order. Sit down and really look at the program to make sure that you can do this program in 4 years. Also you can figure out how to set your classes so you don’t have to miss practices or not set yourself up to do well (put hard classes the morning after late practices). Also, most classes are offered at the same time each semester they are slotted (example always meets at noon in the fall and 9am in the spring semesters), so use that to your scheduling advantage.
This does not mean text on your phone while Netflix is on and your roommate is messing around. Sit down and learn the information. This doesn’t mean stare at the page or sleep on the book hoping for the osmosis of knowledge to spontaneously occur. Look at the chapters, and specifically the objectives of them go through the chapter and see if you can now answer the objectives. After that look at the summary questions and see if you can answer those. Don’t just mindlessly pack the knowledge down and then regurgitate it on the page later. Your goal should be to have the ability to teach this information to someone else if you really want to. Also, just like your cheer skills the more you practice (study) the better you get, this means sitting down to study more than just the night before the exam but do this multiple times each week. Also like your cheer skills, notice that when you are building skills things are uncomfortable, things are not flowing well together when you are learning, that is the same thing that happens when you are studying new material.
Don’t be afraid to use methods like notecards to also help with your learning. As you get them correct take them out of the pile and start over with only the ones you missed the first time. Keep going through until you get them all correct. Each time you come back to study always start with the full deck. You can also find friends (preferably in the class you are studying for) and quiz each other. Crazy stuff that being social can actually help you in life. Another method that I’m a fan of is really put together a flow chart to make sure that you are indeed understanding how different concepts and systems work together (I do a lot of physiology so this method really does help).
Ask for help
If you are struggling ask for help. Sounds simple but a lot of folks can forget this. Your teammates will likely have taken the same classes before that you are currently in. They can give you ideas on what you need to study and focus on to be successful in the class. You can also find tutors often in your own academic department where necessary and at the end of the day GO TALK TO THE PROFESSOR. Go to their office during their office hours or email them to set up a time to meet. If you are a student that shows up consistently and is engaged in class the professor should recognize you. If not you screwed up in the beginning. From here ask them questions and they can help you. Remember they are human beings too and often want you to be successful. Some might be sadistic monsters that want to see students fail and are fueled by your tears, but those are rare and typically teach organic chemistry (I’m kidding, well kinda).
Have fun with cheering in college, but don’t forget about why you are in college, and that is to set up the rest of your life to be successful. Your goal in life should be that each chapter of it is more exciting (or as exciting) as the previous one. There is nothing sadder in my opinion than people trapped in talking about their glory years and how great they used to be and have nothing to talk highly about in the present. Nostalgia is great, but can be toxic for people if they spend too much time in it. So don’t be “that person” by not just working hard on the mat and in the gym, but do this in the classroom and library and you will find yourself successful in all facets of life. Ok this time I really think I’m done. Cheer is fun, but getting up every day to go do a job I enjoy is worth more than my memories from cheer (and trust me, I had a great time).