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Oct 03

The “Tiny Flyer” Myth

I recently read an article entitled “Too Big To Fly”, on the
blog Cheerleading Daily. It’s a great blog, with some really thought provoking
opinion pieces, and this particular one, I completely agreed with.

The post describes the author’s experience at a competition,
and seeing an all-girl team where virtually all the girls were just about the
same size. No teeny-tiny flyers, no bases that looked like professional body
builders, and, according to the author, they rocked. Their stunts were awesome,
with a high level of difficulty, and they were reported to have been executed
perfectly, with great technique.

I’m not here to do a book report for you, so if you’re
interested in more, it’s a good article- you should check it out for yourself.
I’m writing about it now, because it got me thinking about my experience with
the concepts of fitness and weight as a flyer. Specifically with flyers, the
confusion of weight, with fitness, is something I have seen as more of a rule
than an exception over the years, and I find it maddening.

*Here’s your warning folks, I’m gearing up for a little
rant*

I’m 5’6”, and throughout my flying career, I averaged about
118lbs. I’m not very big, I don’t have a ton of muscle, but I’m not tiny,
either. At a glance, I was always sort of in that grey area as far as size is
concerned – not that super tiny girl everyone wants to partner stunt with, but
not 6 feet tall or built like a linebacker. I didn’t really get much in the way
of prejudice directly, but it was something that was always there- the tiny
flyer myth. As long as you’re skinny, or tiny, you can fly, no problem.

Nobody told me to lose a few pounds, or that I was flat out
too tall, but everyone always got excited when a five foot nothing, 92 pound
girl showed up to tryouts.

You know what?

Bite me.

One of the most talented flyer I know personally is a 5’8”
guy, and while I didn’t ask him, I would venture a guess at his weight around
140-145.

It’s all muscle folks. His control and lines are practically
flawless, and he is amazing on virtually any bases.

It’s not about the look, it’s not about the number on the
scale. It’s about fitness, technique, and how engaged every single member of
the group is in the stunt.

Just because you’re 92 pounds, doesn’t give you license to
slack off in your stunts. If you don’t do your part, the stunt is still going
to look like garbage, and it’s probably not going to be as safe as it needs to
be.

That amazingly fit tumbler on the team that is as tall as
all the backspots – try her out flying and see if it works, cause I bet those
baskets would be gorgeous.

Now don’t get me wrong, we all need to be realistic about
the team we are on, the needs of that team, and our strengths. If you are
wicked strong, and can bench press your friends, yeah, your team probably needs
you basing. If you have arms like toothpicks, you probably shouldn’t volunteer
to single base cupies. Go with your strengths, and make yourself the best
athlete you can be.

Be realistic, but don’t pigeon hole yourself because of
these stereotypes.

Here’s the part for the coaches. This is even more for you
than for squad members.

In the end, you tell people where to go for stunts. This is
your responsibility.

Solid, safe, strong stunts come from a good foundation in
technique. It takes a while, and it has to be taught meticulously. That’s just
the way it is. You take the littlest girl on the team and put her in the air
over and over again without teaching her anything, the performance is going to
suffer, and chances are, someone’s going to get hurt. Try to actively widen
your perspective. At least enough to try to judge who can be trained for each
role, and take the time to do the training.

[This is me, shaking a finger, and yelling at you.] You cop
out and throw the littlest kid on top of the biggest kids hoping it will work, and give everybody
else pom poms to stand on the sidelines time and time again, and you’re hurting
the cheerleaders, and you’re hurting the sport.

Cheerleaders, coaches, flyers, bases- I am begging you, look
at the matter reasonably. Look around the room right now, or out a window. Can
you guess what each individual is best at, by looking at them? Whether they
have rhythm, how flexible they are, whether they are scared of heights, how
serious they are about achieving their goals. That’s okay, I’ll answer for you.
No, you probably can’t.

When you’re putting together your stunt groups, you are
going to need to try to put people in places where you think they will succeed,
and that’s fine. You have to start somewhere. But as it becomes apparent where
the skill levels of each individual lay, don’t limit yourself to these
ridiculous stereotypes.

Look for athleticism and aptitude, not size. And for the
love of sanity, please, don’t let yourself get sucked in to the tiny flyer myth.

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2 comments

  1. Brooke

    I have also come across this same myth you are describing above which we called “little girl syndrome”. I would even like to take it a step farther which is to say in my experience the best flyers I know are not the little ones. The cheerleaders fallen with “little girl syndrome” are the ones that have been told their whole cheer career that they are small which has given them false prophet to believe that they don’t need to try as hard, work their technique as much, and over all put in the 110% that is needed to be an elite flyer. Now I know there are good and bad on both sides of the spectrum so I’m trying to lump all of these little ones together but it has been my experience that those fallen with “little girl syndrome” fly loose, let their elbows hang out, and usually aren’t as flexible. Broadening your horizons when it comes to choosing flyers will only make your team stronger- utilize each person’s strengths to really maximize your team’s talent pool.
    My 2 cents xoxo

    1. Your Beloved Cheertator

      Amen, Coach Brooke! This is a beautiful sentiment coming from someone who both actively cheers and coaches, because this really does start with the coaches. We, as coaches, must stop encouraging the “little girl syndrome”. It’s detrimental to the girls who are told they’re little, just as you say, as well as to the ones who don’t!

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