Easy Happy Nest
Discover all the places in the San Francisco Bay Area for your kids

Cécile and Lana - Cheerleading: More Than Just a Sport, a Community

As a French girl, dance and gymnastics were very familiar to me but I had never heard of Cheerleading. I first discovered it watching American teenage movies so I am pretty ashamed to say, I only knew of the Hollywood stereotype of the dumb, blond, mean girl shaking pom poms during halftime.

So when my friend Cécile told me her daughter Lana would be starting cheerleading classes, I was surprised. Then I started to see some pictures and videos and I was intrigued because it was not at all what I thought it would be like. One day Lana's team was having a showcase so we went to see her and I was blown away. For me, it was the perfect combination of dance and gymnastics and I was really impressed by what these young girls could do.

I am very glad that they agreed to do this interview to share Lana's passion for cheerleading and what it means to both of them.

I am Cécile and I have been with my husband, Nicolas, for more than 20 years. We have a 10-year-old daughter, Lana, who was born in France and was 18 months when we moved to the US in 2014 for my husband’s work.

What are the first activities Lana did as a kid?

Cécile - When we arrived in San Jose, she started a baby gym class at My Gym. She took lessons there until she was 4 years old. After 2.5 years doing baby gym, I felt it was beginning to be too easy for her, she needed to be challenged more so we went to Gold Star in Mountain View for about 18 months. Then Lana started TK and Gold Star was not practical for us anymore in terms of schedule and commute so we went to West Valley Gymnastics.

How did you discover cheerleading? This is mainly an American activity, did you know something about it before moving to the US?

Lana discovered cheerleading during Gold Star’s showcase because they offer both gym and cheer classes. But you need to be 6 years old to start cheer and she was too young at that time.

Before coming to the US, I only knew about pom dance like you can see in the movies and nothing about all-star cheerleading. All-star is different from school cheerleading because you are not cheering for a team, this is really a performance sport with its own federation and competition system.

When and where did Lana start cheerleading?

When Lana turned 6, she was old enough to start cheer and Gold Star had moved to Sunnyvale, which was more convenient for us, so she was able to start recreational cheer there. Recreational cheer means only cheer classes, 45 minutes per week and without competitions.

At the end of each class, she was frustrated and felt that the classes were too short, she wanted to do more. At the end of the school year, they offered her to switch to competition cheer and then she was hooked.

We knew this meant a strong investment both in terms of time and money and it was difficult for a 7-year-old to realize what it meant. We didn’t know if she would really like it but we decided to try.

What are the things you like most about cheerleading for Lana?

I love the values that this sport can teach. The fact that this is a team sport is the most important one for me. Lana being an only child, being part of a team is like having a second family for her. They win and lose together, also she is a flyer [the person at the top who is in the air during the stunts] so this means she has to trust her teammates not to let her fall during the stunts.

Lana has a lot of energy and she really needs sport to let it out. During the pandemic, this was especially challenging and we really saw the difference when she was able to get back to cheer.

For me, cheerleading was a great way to join a group of “American moms” because otherwise, my friends were all French expat moms like me. I even became President of the booster club which plans events and activities to foster a community spirit: bowling, bbq, banquets, gifts, or raising money to grant scholarships for families in need.

Do you have things that you don’t like or that are challenging for you or Lana?

This is a very expensive sport [more details below] and it is very time-consuming. I am self-employed and I can have flexible work hours so I can make this work, but I don’t know how parents of multiple children with strict schedules can do it. This also means that I have very little time for my own social life.

Now that she has been doing it for several years, do you have any advice for parents considering cheerleading for their kid?

I would say that you have to really think about the money and time commitment but other than that this is a great sport, I can see that the kids are really living their best life when they are doing their routine together.

It’s important to know that there are two types of clubs so you have to think about what would be the best fit for your child and your family. In Division 1, teams usually have replacement athletes so you are not sure to be performing, they also ask for a full commitment, if you are not able to attend a class or are late, you will need to pay a fee. But it also means they are usually the best teams that win the competitions. Division 2 clubs like Gold Star are smaller, there is less pressure and I feel they have a stronger family spirit.

Lana is a very energetic 10-year-old with 4 years of experience in competitive cheer.

What do you like about cheerleading?

Lana - I like to be part of a team. I have had the same teammates for 4 years so they have become good friends now. I am one of the youngest girls in the team but I like to be surrounded by older girls.

I love performing on stage and being a flyer. I really like the little adrenaline rush before a show. I also like to try new stunts.

What are your next goals?

I would like to master new stunts. In tumbling [a series of acrobatics movements performed on the floor, usually individually], I don’t depend on the team, this is only me so I can really challenge myself.

With my team, I would love to win a large competition involving a lot of teams. My dream would be to go to the World Championships to compete against Top Gun TGLC team. They are the current world champions and I am a huge fan.

For now, I feel great in my team, I don’t see myself changing teams.

How long do you see yourself practicing cheerleading?

I cannot imagine stopping cheer.

Have you ever considered doing another sport?

If I had to try something new it would probably be circus arts, doing acrobatics or aerial acts like flying a trapeze.

Lana's cheer practice in details
  • 2 practices a week for a total of 5 hours per week (2x2 hours of team practice + 1 hour of tumbling)
  • About 7 competitions per season on the weekends (competitions can last 1 or 2 days)
Practices cost about $310 per month so $3,000 per season plus about $1,000 of equipment/competition fees and about $2,000 of travel expenses (flights, hotels) for the competitions so about $6,000 total per season.

Cécile’s favorites

Favorite kids stores

Family favorite places to eat

  • Gen Korean BBQ House in San Jose
  • BJ’s in Cupertino
  • Rice + Noodles Asian Kitchen in Campbell
  • Lazy dog in Cupertino

Favorite places to have fun

Favorite places to learn

Favorite local brands, artists, or makers

Favorite family-oriented online resources