Hi, I'm Corey, I'm an athlete on the University of Miami co-ed cheerleading team and I'm an advocate for diversifying the sport of cheerleading and mental health.
Cheerleading actually started as a male sport, it was strictly for males. Cheerleading didn't start becoming more feminine until after world war two when all the guys had to get shipped out for war, and then it became like a more female predominant sport. And then later on, males started to transition back into sport but there was such a huge gap between when guys were strictly on the team to when it was strictly girls for a long time. So I feel like just seeing that long span of time when it was strictly girls, people start to assume that it's a girl sport.
The main stigma that everyone thinks about when they think about a male trader is that they're just, they're automatically gay. Like, they just think that the sport is for gay guys and girls. But that's very damaging, just having that stigmatization and that, just like that, social agenda that they think about all the guys on the team are gay, even if they are or not like, it just seems very damaging to assume that. And me personally, that was a reason why I did not want to join. Going into the ninth grade year, I saw that there was... my team in high school was all girls, and I didn’t want to be that one guy. And actually, when I did join the team, I was the second guy in my whole school's history to be on the cheerleading team and the first guy to actually go to college for cheerleading at my high school. So yeah, it was just very nerve wracking, getting into that kind of situation, because I didn't want to be subject to bullying or subject to like name calling and stuff like that and it's just, it was a little nerve wracking. Of course, in college, it's like a little different. Since we have a co-ed team, there's more guys on the team. And that's been like, a lot more comforting to be comfortable with myself and being on the team.
I feel like people actually get a good glimpse of what cheerleading actually is in the college level. Because in high school, you're doing like band dances, yes, some people are tumbling here and there. And of course of course you’re doing these cool stunts. But like in college, you're seeing all these three-high pyramids sustain them to toss girls like 10 to 15 feet in the air, and you're seeing these insane tumbling passes in the endzone. And then of course, we go to college that is now competitive like our team now competes at the Universal Cheerleading Association Competition, um, college nationals, people began to respect the sport a little more and respects like the guys on the team a little more, of course, there's gonna be some people who just have like this negative connotation of male cheerleading or male cheerleaders in general. But I feel like being in college has definitely created a space because of our skill level. And then also like being in college, people tend not to care as much anymore, and people are more comfortable with themselves, so they don't feel subjected to belittle other people.
For sure I know, like some of the guys who are new to cheerleading, they are so nervous, and I try to make it seem very, like, open like this team is an open space for anyone, regardless of who you are, or what your background is. So I just make sure I'm showing like, I'm confident in myself, and I'm confident in who I am outside of cheerleading that I won't let like any negative connotations or any he say she say get to me while I’m at practice. Like I make sure I'm always having a big smile and making sure that the guys know, like if you ever have any doubts about anything about the first game, especially as a lot of people like coming out to cheerleading. Like they can confide in me and talk to me and so I can give them that confidence that I have when it comes to being on the field or being on a competition floor.
So we do have guy coaches, which I feel like is so beneficial for sure. We have Coach George and Coach Daniel. At my high school we only had female coaches so if I felt a certain type of way, I was scared to tell them because then they'll just say, “Oh, get over it. It's fine. Like cheerleading is fine, haha.” But like the two guy coaches that we have at the University of Miami, they understand the stigma of being a male cheerleader. So like, if I ever feel a type of way, I can just talk to them and they will reach out to me. I remember my freshman year I really had my doubts and Coach Daniel really helped me a lot like just like, feeling confident in myself and just having self reassurance that I'm doing this because I like it and I shouldn't let any social connotations or stigmas cause me not to do it anymore.
Cheerleading is such a hyper sexualized sport for sure. Where you're having girls in half tops and short skirts running around and then guys running around your uniform. Sometimes it can be hard to be comfortable and yourself. One thing I found myself doing a lot is comparing myself to other people. Obviously you guys can see I’m very small and I tend to compare myself to a lot of my guy equivalents. And a lot of them are bigger than I am so it gets a little. I don't know, I just started to compare myself a lot more and I know a lot of girls also do like you're in this revealing uniform, they tend to talk down on themselves. And I've witnessed that a lot on my team also when it comes to like their weight or how it comes to how they look. So it's one thing in cheerleading, I feel like it has negative aspects also and I feel like a lot of people go through that as well.
Being that also goes to the stereotype of one of the stereotypes of cheerleading is that they think that everyone is skinny, it was like the one of the main stereotypes of the skinny blonde, white girl. So anyone who's outside of those three criteria automatically feel less than, so I feel like something that we have to do to combat that is just like, really diversify the sport.
So one advice I would give to them is to have self confidence. I always say it's so much easier for a guy to join the football team than for a guy to put on this tight, fitted uniform and go out in front of thousands of people doing these skills. So have confidence in yourself. Self reassurance, reassure yourself why you're doing this sport, why you want to do this sport, and remind yourself why you love this sport. Don't let anyone get in the way of that. And then also, I would say, just like obviously enjoy this time because cheerleading doesn't have a professional level. Like if you think of professional cheerleading, you think of like the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, and that's more like a dance POM team. But in regards to traditional cheerleading with stunting and tumbling, there's the highest level you can go with college so like our time is very limited. After college, we have to bury our pom poms onto the cheerleading gods and move on. So definitely make sure you enjoy the time that you have while you're cheerleading.