Cheerleading: Mental strength just as vital as physical

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The physical strength required to waver high above the crowd while balancing on a single, shaking hand, is only the surface of the strength required to be a Dixie State University cheerleader.

That is why DSU cheerleaders are expected to be in tip-top shape to represent the university. Cheer practices three times a week, before 6 a.m., and they practice running, stunting, tumbling, ab and leg exercises.

However, Colton Jensen, a sophomore exercise science major from Tooele, said the most important strength for a cheerleader isn’t physical, but it is mental.

Jensen started cheering once he got to DSU, and even though he played sports in high school, he said it was hard to learn how to put himself out there in front of a crowd.

“Humility is the biggest strength required to be a cheerleader,” Jensen said. “You have to be willing to go outside your bubble.”

Ashlyn Steglich, a senior communication major from Highland, said cheering can be intimidating, especially to people just beginning. She has been cheering since she was a child and danced when she was even younger. She said as important as leg and core strength are, trusting your technique and overcoming mental blocks are even more important.

“Naturally, [cheer] is scary,” Steglich said. “It takes a lot of mental power to tell yourself you’re going to follow through and do your [tumbling or stunts]. You have to trust the technique.”

At practice, the male cheerleaders often stunt their partners over and over, requiring them to develop enough strength and endurance to be able to hold their partners up above their heads for long periods of time. Jensen said practice and conditioning help the cheer team nail its stunts when the time comes, but cheerleading requires a type of strength different from other sports.

“There’s a different kind of strength you need to be a cheerleader,” Jensen said. “It’s a different kind of endurance. You could go do a cheer-oriented workout, then do a football-oriented workout, and they would be completely different and difficult.” 

Cheerleaders’ limits are pushed and some people aren’t ready for that challenge, head cheer coach Kristi Shaw said. She said they have to adapt to new coaching, teammates and expectations on and off of the gym floor and football field.

“You have to be able to push through your fears, insecurities, low motivation times and remember your end goal,” Shaw said. “You have to look at your belief system and allow yourself to learn and grow.”

You can catch the cheerleaders on the sideline at any Trailblazer home game. The next game in the Burns Arena will be women’s basketball Friday at 5:30 p.m. and men’s basketball at 7:30 p.m.