Hockey Cheerleading: Combining Figure Skating & School Spirit
By guest writer, Valerie Turgeon
Back-to-school time means new teachers and classes, but for figure skaters, it also means the beginning of a new competition season. On top of studying for tests, writing essays, off-ice conditioning, and fitting in extra practice sessions, it seems impossible to make time to meet up with friends for frozen yogurt or to show off your school’s colors at the Friday night football games.
As much as I loved figure skating, I also wanted to feel involved with my high school and be able to make new friends. Plus, it was disappointing that I went to a school that didn’t acknowledge figure skating as a lettering sport. My struggle was a familiar one that many skaters face: How can I combine skating and school? My solution: become a hockey cheerleader.
Not only did I get to show off my figure skating skills to my classmates, my school spirit was at an all-time high. I loved wearing my uniform to school on big game days and chatting with classmates about the previous night’s winning goal. If it weren’t for cheerleading, I would have never learned our school song (“…fight, fight, fight, for the red and white!”), nor would I have met as many people in different grades. Being able to connect with new people through the sport I love was extremely rewarding.
Unfortunately, we did very little skating. During games, we sat on the ground in front of the boards and pounded on the glass with our hands, reciting cheers in pat-a-cake style. The only time our blades touched the ice was at the beginning of games to welcome the players, and for a short routine in between periods. As I watched the hockey players race across the ice, I pictured myself out there, perfecting my jump technique and choreographing footwork for my program. I was meant to have skates on my feet.
When deciding whether hockey cheerleading is right for you, take into consideration the amount of time you want to dedicate to your own practice, and whether you will able to accomplish your figure skating goals for the year. If there are no other ways you can become involved with your high school, but you still crave those connections, then spending just one season as a hockey cheerleader may be enough—and you won’t lose any of your skating skills. For me, I made lasting friendships from only one season of cheering, and for the next three years in high school, I was able to continue competing. Throughout high school, I still had fun attending games and supporting my cheerleading friends from the stands.
If you don’t want to make the sacrifice, hockey cheerleading in college is another option, and perhaps, an even better time to join a squad. 35% of U.S. Figure Skating members are 7-12 years old. That number drops to 6% for 19-25 year-olds. It’s difficult to sustain a competitive skating schedule while attending college, but it’s also heart breaking to completely leave the sport after being so dedicated to it for so long. This is where hockey cheerleading comes in.
Lauren Johnson, who gradated from the University of Minnesota in 2014, joined the U of M’s hockey cheerleading squad and continued taking a few lessons throughout her first two years of college. Finding a group with such a strong, shared interest made it easier for her to stay involved with skating.
“When I had the opportunity, I would watch skating competitions, usually with my hockey cheer teammates,” says Johnson. “The Olympics fell at the end of my senior year and my teammates and I exchanged passwords for Comcast so we could watch the figure skating programs. I sat in class just watching a woman’s short program.”
And in 2012, Johnson and her team traveled to Tampa, Fla., to cheer on the Gophers when they made it to the Frozen Four. “We got to skate at the Tampa Bay Lighting arena and cheer in front of 40,000 people. It was so much fun to be at a huge event like that,” says Johnson.
While she misses the adrenaline rush of competing, Johnson appreciates experiencing less pressure as a hockey cheerleader in college, thanks to her friends. “I was so used to competing as an individual, but with cheer, you learn to work as a unit. It is exciting to be with a team out there and knowing you have your best friends by your side.”
Both Johnson and I learned that we didn’t have to give up skating to become more involved with school and to make new friends. Hockey cheerleading seems to be the perfect combination. And, of course, you’ll even learn a thing or two about the game of hockey.
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