2016 was a year packed full of news and events, but before the ball dropped, the year had one last “hurrah!” for us… in December 2016, the announcement came that the International Olympics Committee (IOC) had granted cheerleading provisional recognition as an Olympic sport.
In a nutshell, this is great news and a huge step forward for our favourite sport. Not only does it give us our most solid ammo yet against naysayers, but it also gives our young athletes an even bigger dream to dream. However, the work isn’t done just yet; the recognition is a good step, but there is still lots of red tape to work through until you could actually see cheerleading among the five rings.
That said, while it may take time, we all know that dreams take time to achieve. Our priority is to be prepared so that, when our time comes, we’re ready! Here are five things your athlete can do to progress toward their own Olympic readiness:
Practice, practice and then practice some more. Olympians are the premiere athletes in their sport—many of the 2016 Olympic gymnasts trained six to eight hours every single day! That’s because they’re professionals. That doesn’t mean your athlete needs to spend that much time in a gym just yet, but it’s something to prepare for. Condition, strengthen, and continue dedication during every training session. And remember, when you’re not on the floor, you should still train. Tumbling classes, open gyms, head to the weight room, hit a yoga class, work with a private coach; there’s always something that you can do to be prepared.
Stay hungry. Being in amazing physical shape and having loads of talent is definitely important, but won’t get you to the Olympics alone. You need to be hungry and to keep wanting “it.” So often, we start working toward goals and dreams like a sprint; but the road to the Olympics is a marathon.
Be true to themselves. Competitive, professional sports have eaten too many athletes alive—and in most cases, it’s because the athlete forgot who they were along the way. Remember that you are more than your sport; it is something you do. Focus on being kind, being a great friend and teammate, and remember that what’s on the inside counts, too. Stay true to yourself always—and don’t forget who that person is that looks back on you from the mirror.
Become a motivator. Great Olympians know that there is no such thing as a solo sport; there’s always a team behind even the best of athletes. Reach out to coaches and build your support system. And take a leadership role on your team, helping to build other teammates up, taking a hand in helping everyone strengthen their skills, and pushing others to do their best.
Stay at the top—of all things. As you train and work toward your Olympic dreams, remember that there are other facets of life, too. Train hard at the gym—and in the classroom. Aim to be the top of your class, make plans for University (and work toward acceptance), get involved in the community and be a leader. The truly great Olympians are amazing at their sport and in life.
While cheerleading may not be an official practicing Olympic sport just yet, we have hope that it will be in the coming years. Don’t just wait—fill the years between now and cheerleading’s Olympic debut with practice, dedication, and character preparation so you’re ready when your day comes.
Natalie Vonlanthen is one of the owners of PCT Cheer and Tumble in Mississauga, ON. She is a 5-time World Champion Coach with Team Canada Coed Premier; a mother of two and an avid walker.