Tough Competition

It’s July and the weather has been getting quite warm lately.  Funny enough, until last week it rained practically everyday so the temperatures were quite cool.  Since it was already July, I was beginning to think (and hope) that it would be a cool summer like back in 2003, when the raining season lasted until almost mid-August, and the summer heat only lasted like two weeks.  This is suppose to be the last day of the intense heat and the temperatures should be significantly cooler again tomorrow, partially due to a typhoon scheduled to hit Japan.

Haru has been doing cheerleading for nearly two and half years now and she seems to be really enjoying it a lot.  I remember when she first started, I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the idea, nor was I against it.  My only condition is that it cannot interfere with her gymnastics practice.  Interestingly enough however, cheerleading has not only enhanced her gymnastics skills, it’s literally put her at the top of her gymnastics class.  There is no one in her gym class who is even comes close to equaling her, which is why I get a bit irritated and frustrated that she was not promoted to advanced gymnastics last April.  As a matter of fact, there were three kids who were promoted ahead of her, who are not that good.  Never mind the fact that Haru is better than them, one of the three kids absolutely SUCKS at gymnastics and was still promoted.  I have a feeling that she was promoted only because her twin sister who is pretty good, got promoted, and they didn’t want to break up the set (which of course is a stupid reason for getting promoted.)  Although Haru felt cheated that she wasn’t able to advance up to the next level, for the most part, she has been in good spirits about it because of her advancements in her tumbling class. Additionally, she is often called upon by her coaches to demonstrate skills that no one else can do, in front of her class.  This seems be a key to keeping her motivation up.

Her tumbling coach is really good, and unlike her gymnastics coaches (with an exception of a few), her tumbling coach will actually physically demonstrate difficult skills like the back flip, and front and back handsprings, instead of just verbalizing it.  Since Haru responds better to visual instructions rather than verbal instructions, she is able to pick up skills faster from her tumbling coach, as opposed to her gymnastic coaches.  And because of this, she has been able to advance to advanced tumbling within six months after starting tumbling, and is quickly catching up (in terms of skills) to the two best girl in the class (who by the way are competition cheerleaders), and earning much respect from her older classmates.

This Thursday, Haru will be up for promotion in her cheerleading class, and will be given a skill assessment by her cheer coach.   Previously, when she had moved up from Peach to Clover class, the only criteria is that she’s able to perform well on the Peach team for one year.  However, to advance up to the next level, which is the “Ace” Team, the conditions are a bit tougher.  She will have to demonstrate superior tumbling skills, concentration skills, dance skills, and do it all with a big happy smile on her face.  Haru will have no problem with the smile and tumbling parts, but I am very concerned over her concentration skills, because Haru is easily distracted.  She does well on stage, but apparently she has a hard time keeping focused during practice.

Another issue is that she has a hard time remembering her dance routines, and often looks over to the person next to her to make sure she’s getting it right.  Again, this seems to be more of an issue during practice than on stage (at least less noticeable on stage).  The standards for being promoted to Ace where never this tough, but there are only four slots available, and a quite a few girls are looking to move up.

Haru’s biggest advantage is her tumbling skills.  Currently, there is only one girl in Ace who can do a back handspring, and it’s a skill that is traditionally performed by the Ace team during the Cheerleading Festival in the spring.  All of the other girls who were in Ace and who were able to do a back handspring have all either quit or moved up to the Elite team, the highest group.  So Ace is in desperate need of a cheerleader who can do a back handspring on stage.  Right now, Haru is able to a round-off back handspring, which is an Elite skill, nearly perfectly, and is working on her round off double back handspring with her tumbling coach, which is a skill that only a few of the top Elite members can perform.

Haru’s biggest disadvantage is her ability to keep focused.   It seems as if her mind is all over the place.  Strangely enough, when she is performing on stage, she is very highly focused, to the point where she often forgets to smile, which is one of the highest criterias for being advanced to Ace.  It was just the other night during Haru’s tumbling practice, I overheard one of the mothers saying that no matter how well the cheerleader can dance and stay focused, is she cannot do it without a smile on her face, she will not make it into Ace or Elite.  This is why the cheerleaders in the Ace and Elite teams always have a big fake looking smile on their faces during the shows.

As much as I want Haru to advance up and succeed, I don’t want this to be a source of stress for her.  Although these teams don’t compete, the internal competition amongst the girls is apparently pretty harsh.  Many of the older girls take it VERY seriously, and although I have never seen bashing or bullying in her cheerleading class, apparently it does happen but in a subtle way.  I have seen Haru become a victim of some very subtle bashing amongst the older kids when she first started in her tumbling class (probably because she was new and one of the youngest), but she has since become so much better than the girls who had bashed her, the respect from the other older kids has completely overwhelmed the bashing, and they have become completely irrelevant.


Last Sunday’s Summer Festival (in the rain)

Fast Tube by Casper

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