I looked down at my hand and could only see four fingers. Due to the stress we endured weekly and the verbal abuse we knew was in store the following morning during competition practice, we decided to have a little bit of fun. During that practice, our two main bases got concussions, one of our flyers had a slipped disc, and another girl broke her elbow. Imagine: Sending a girl up in the air, then removing your hands from her ankles, where you had just been putting in the effort to stabilize the stunt, and moving to catch her butt that's quickly descending toward your face. I also had concerns about how hard I was pushing my cardio. An older girl on the squad who was also a back spot advised that I use a different technique whenever my flyer was returning to a "sponge," which is coming back down to the starting position before going back up in the air. When I get my heart rate up, my blood pumps faster, which makes my already hard-working heart work even harder.
Aryanna. Age: 22.
I thought maybe things in collegiate cheerleading were just…different?
Harley. Age: 23.
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I loved the thrill of flying through the air, but with every landing came the jolting thought that, if I was not caught correctly, I could suffer a life-threatening injury. I sprinted across the river to the indoor track where we practice, knowing that arriving late could result in me sitting out of that weekend's football game. Panic ensued, as we realized we basically had to re-work our entire routine.