They’re icons of American culture and serious athletes in their own right. They form a veritable institution in the United States, entertaining tens of millions of Americans every weekend with their acrobatic displays that require years of training. Every year, the very best cheerleaders from across the country come together in Daytona Beach, Florida for the National Cheer Competition. In this documentary, we follow a team on their journey to the championship and examine the changing face of American cheerleading.
For many young Americans, being a cheerleader is not just a passion, but also an opportunity to secure a place in a great college. In the United States, where the average university tuition is 50,000€ per year, cheerleaders can win full scholarships. 16-year-old Gigi spends 30 hours a week in high school, and an additional 20 hours a week working at a restaurant. Then, three times a week, she travels six hours to attend a prestigious cheerleading academy. If she can win one of the coveted scholarships, all the sacrifices will be worth it.
Cheerleading is a sport where image is everything. “We have a specific way that they want us to do our hair and makeup for game day”, explains Carolina. She spends over an hour doing her hair and makeup. However, some teams are moving away from ultra-short, sexy costumes. Sammy’s team now cheers in jogging pants. “I feel more comfortable now. People look at me for my dancing and not for my body.”
Gigi, Camaryn, and their team train year-round for the prestigious competition held annually in Daytona, Florida. There, they will be judged on a short choreography and compete in front of 20,000 fans. As American cheerleading becomes more and more competitive, the demands and expectations placed on these young athletes continues to increase.