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Nonverbal Communication[Type text] 1 Running Head: Collectivism Displayed Through Nonverbal Communication Cheerleading: Collectivism Displayed Through Nonverbal Communication Laura Pelnar and Kristin Masi Carroll University “I'm sexy, I'm cute,I'm popular to boot. I'm bitchin', great hair, The boys all love to stare, …..Hate us 'cause we're beautiful, Well we don't like you either, We're cheerleaders, We are cheerleaders.” This popular quote from the 2000 movie hit Bring It On, was most likely the first Hollywood introduction the mainstream population had with the Cheerleading culture. The ideas portrayed in the above quote depict cheerleaders to be self-absorbed, unintelligent beings. But, truth-be-told the cheer culture is all about common goals, fitting in with the crowd and interdependence. Which illustrates the strong collectivistic values in the culture. Cheerleading dates back to the 1880’s; the first recorded instance being at a Princeton football game (Bettis, 2006, p.122). Of course, at this point in history cheerleading was only made up of males, since women weren’t permitted into universities. Cheerleading was formed with the same core values as it stands by today, to “raise, lead and maintain school spirit (Bettis, 2006, p.122)”. The whole stereotypical sex based idea that women are typically cheerleaders was started in the 1940’s when women began to be accepted into universities and join the squads, this was also during World War II when many male cheerleaders had to leave campus to serve in the war (Bettis, 2007, p. 122). With the arrival of women “….. cheers began to evolve from simple crowd chants, various gymnastic moves and acrobatics were added to standard cheers and were immediate crowd pleasers. Fans in the stands learned to follow along with hand and arm motions (Bettis, 2006, p.122)”. Then, during the 1970’s professional cheerleading squads emerged linking themselves to professional athletic teams, such as the Dallas Cowboys (Bettis, 2006, p.123). Today, cheerleading has evolved into a new deviation of athletics, the degree to which the members go to get a positive reaction from the crowd is endless. Nonverbal Communication[Type text] 3 Currently, there are a total of 3.8 million cheerleaders nation wide, 97% being female (Bettis, 2006, p.122). Fifteen of those cheerleaders perform in our very own Van Male gym. The Carroll Athletics Department notes the purpose of the Pioneer cheerleaders is to “provide enhancement and entertainment during football and men’s and women’s basketball home games when school is in session”. Literature Review Cheerleading, although currently dominated by females, was found in one study to be extremely beneficial for males. The study focused on typical men’s sports such as football, basketball, and hockey to view woman in a negative manner or even as sex objects. It explores the experiences of male athletes who use to participate in all male sports teams who make the transition to co-ed cheerleading in college. Through their co- ed athletic experiences they start to develop a new respect for woman. Because they stop viewing women as sex objects and more as teammates with true athletic abilities. One male cheerleader claimed, “But these women are athletes. They do stuff I’d never do and I bet there are a lot of sports woman can do better in”(Anderson, 2008, p.271). With this positive shift in the abilities of women athletes, men start to view women as teammates or equals who work together. Working towards a common goal in the sport had benefits to these male athletes who were use to being involved in sports where standing out and being noticed in a crowd was praised not looked down upon. Being part of the cheerleading “machine” promotes great teamwork and interdependence skills in these male (and female) athletes, all factors that contribute to a truly collectivistic nature. Another study examined three high schools throughout the Midwest with cheerleading and dance teams that require tryouts upon admittance to the squad. It compared and contrasted certain personality characteristics of the girls who were chosen to be on the squads. Across the board “girls who entered the auditioning process seeking to become a core member of the school cheerleading or dance team were comparable in their levels of investment, arousal, positive performance and attention shown in there classes, the degrees to which they felt various emotions about the process, and about feeling positive about themselves and their school (Barnett, 2007, p.338)”. This study helped us to understand the typical cheerleader better and evaluate their similar personalities. Also, it rated different aspects of personality pre and post admittance to the squad. After making the squad, there were many positive changes in the girls such as, an increase in positive emotions, feelings about self, and feelings about their school. Though this study had no direct relationship with the nonverbal communication practices of the culture, it gave us a better understanding to what types of personalities make up this culture and the many positive effects of being apart of this culture. The last study examined the true dress and athleticism in college cheerleaders in comparison to the “Hollywood” artificial professional sports cheerleaders such as the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders. Even the dress the culture wears to identify themselves as members differs in collegiate athletes and professionals. The dress identifies how cheerleaders are viewed as “sexual icons” to the mainstream population, professional cheerleaders are usually wearing small little outfits and fit a certain body image: skinny, big breasted, tan, long hair, basically a Victoria’s Secret model. While college athletes have a much more athletic build and are able to physically perform intense workouts, a Nonverbal Communication[Type text] 5 completely different reality in comparison to the cheerleaders on television. Although there are many misconceptions, the title comes with many benefits. “In the United States, cheerleading is often perceived as the highest status activity for girls in middle school and high school, and girls who cheer occupy positions of power, prestige, and privilege (Bettis, 2007, p.124)”. It goes onto explain how these privileges come with great benefits not just in peers but in school systems as well. These cheerleaders are often permitted to bend dress code rules when in uniform, although the uniforms don’t necessarily follow school dress code rules, they are able to wear them to school to promote school spirit and to identify them as members of the squad or culture. The traditional cheer dress code is a great nonverbal indicator of the belonging to the cheer culture. UCA or Universal Cheerleading Association is one of the most highly respected cheer associations in the nation. UCA was established in 1974 by Jeff Webb, who wanted to start an association with the purpose of “high quality educational training for high school and college cheerleaders (UCA)”. All squads associated with UCA must follow safety guidelines and regulations. These rules and regulations are particularly important when competing against other squads in UCA competition. Some of those regulations being the way the uniform, hair, and overall appearance are presented. All girls are suppose to look identical when competing and if they fail to do so, points will be deducted from their overall score (knowledge I have attained over my personal 11 year cheerleading career). This rule (and many others not discussed) really emphasizes how fitting is valued over individual expression, a key component of a collectivistic culture. Through our research we are looking to find, how do cheerleaders develop a collectivistic culture through nonverbal communication? Methodology The chosen methodology used in this study was interviews and observations. We interviewed members of Carroll University’s football and basketball cheer team Jazmyne Martinez, who has been a cheerleader for seven years, and Erin Klade, who has been a cheerleader for four years. We also interviewed Cheerleading Captain, Kristen Hoff, who has been a cheerleader for ten years and Captain of the Carroll squad for 5 consecutive seasons. After the interviews we were able to sit in and watch a normal cheerleading practice. The interviews and observations took place in Carroll University’s Van Male Gymnasium, where cheerleading practices are conducted. This location was chosen in order to make the interviewees feel more comfortable in a familiar setting. The interviews were conducted on the first day of the cheerleader’s basketball season. Jazmyne Martinez, Erin Klade, and Kristen Hoff answered questions about the cheerleading culture, the strengths of their team, how cheerleaders communicate to a crowd and cheerleading customs. After the interviews took place, we observed practice. This helped us see the cheerleading squad interact with one another and supported the answers the interviewees gave to the questions they previously answered. Nonverbal Communication[Type text] 7 Findings Cheerleaders are able to build a collectivistic environment through nonverbal communication because of physical appearance, kinesics, and paralanguage. One of the interview questions was if there were any traditional outfits, accessories, hair or makeup associated with cheerleading, to which Kristen Hoff responded, “Yes! Glitter, big eyes, big lips, bows in the hair, the whole skirt and top with big letters with the school name on it.” Jazmyne Martinez added, “Basically just white cheer shoes and usually a pony tail.” The interviewees described that looking similar to one another helps the team look as one, which is important to this culture. The goal is to look like a team rather than stand out of the bunch. Teamwork is highly valued and it is important to progress as a group. Jazmyne Martinez mentioned that the purpose of cheerleading is to “involve the crowd and get the team motivated to do better and it is easier to do this as a group opposed to individually.” This response about teamwork and working as a group supports that physical appearance helps build a collectivistic environment because looking as one reflects the teamwork that these cheerleaders have built as well as showing the value of the group. Erin Klade mentioned that teamwork was important because “if one person isn’t doing the right thing than the whole team isn’t going to work. Most of the stuff we do is based on team cooperation and if one person is off then the whole team is off, so everybody has to contribute so we look like we belong together.” Kinesics also helps build a collectivistic environment because every motion cheerleaders make have to be exactly the same for everybody on the team, otherwise it does not look right as a whole. Cheerleaders use kinesics as their biggest communication methods, or more commonly referred to in the cheer language as stunting, motions, tumbling, or using signs. Stunting is when cheerleaders hold, or throw another person in the air. The team is usually put into stunt groups, or pods. Stunt groups generally consist of four people, a flyer, the girl that goes in the air, two bases, one on either side of the flyer that hold the flyer’s feet, and a backspot, which generally holds the flyer’s ankles and help to hold or throw the flyer in the air. Stunting can also consist of more than four people for more advanced stunts, such as pyramids where there are numerous stunt groups involved in one big stunt consisting of multiple flyers being in the air together. We asked Kristen Hoff if she agreed that the strongest communication in cheerleading were the nonverbal aspects and she responded with, “Yes. And when we do a really cool stunt they obviously cheer, so we know that with that type of thing the crowd and team are going to get motivated.” We proceeded to ask if the cheerleaders got more feedback from the big nonverbal aspects such as stunting and dancing, to which Kristen Hoff also responded by saying, “Yes”. Jazmyne Martinez and Erin Klade were also asked if they used stunting to get the crowd involved. They responded with, “Sometimes, because the crowd likes to see the bigger stunts that look dangerous, we use signs too.” A group goal described by Jazmyne Martinez was, “to grow as a group because it takes four people to make a stunt work, and more than four for pyramid stunts. If one pod doesn’t work, it all won’t work.” Cheerleaders also use motions to communicate to the crowd. Motions are the movements used during cheers. While observing Carroll University’s cheer practice, we noticed that every word to a cheer had a specific motion Nonverbal Communication[Type text] 9 to go along with it. Some of the more common motions used in cheerleading are high V’s, low V’s, goal posts, right and left punch, and daggers all aiding in communicating with the crowd. One of the questions asked was to describe why motions are used as opposed to just saying the cheers. Kristen Hoff explained, “not everybody can hear the words to the cheer all the time, but, for the most part, they can see the cheerleaders doing motions. At least then they know that something is going on and they recognize that we are cheering. The crowd usually tries to get into the cheers with us regardless if they know the words or not, they’ll get loud and pump up the team”. The way Kristen explained that the use of motions shows that the nonverbal communication of motions, or kinesics, helps communicate to the crowd nonverbally. And if the whole team is performing the same motion, it is more effective and catches the crowd’s attention. Kristen also mentioned, “The effect of all the members of the squad doing the motions in unison is the most effective way to involve the crowd”. Therefore, being collectivistic helps the crowd get involved. Tumbling is another form of kinesics used in cheerleading. Tumbling which is more commonly known as gymnastics, is another way of getting the crowd enthused. Usually when cheerleaders have a tumbling pass, which is when there is more than one person tumbling at once, in their routine, it is very important for the timing to be the same for everybody. It looks best when everybody involved in the tumbling pass lands at the same time. Therefore, much like motions, it is important for everyone’s body movements to be on point with the others to look as one. Paralanguage also helps to build a collectivistic culture for cheerleaders. This is because in cheerleading, cheerleaders do not just say words as anyone else would in a normal conversation; they have to use big, deeper voices than the norm. Kristen Hoff described this as, “using your outside voice. You have to use big voices in order for everybody to hear you. But it’s also important to emphasize your words and make sure everybody is together with the same general tone of voice to make the whole team sound as one. We also make sure we talk or cheer or chat or whatever you’d like to call it, at a slower rate than we would normally because it helps with the emphasizing words and making them loud and clear for everybody to hear”. In addition, Kristen Hoff added, “Not only do we use a whole different tone of voice, and style of talking, which is actually more of a chant, we have a whole different language than what those outside of the cheerleading culture are unaware. We literally have a cheer language.” When asked to elaborate, Hoff responded with, “I actually found a book that has an entire dictionary of cheerleading words. In no other sport do you have that. For example, we have such things as a liberty, arabesque, scorpions, and some other stuff like that. To everyone else when they thing of these kinds of words they think of something completely different than what the cheerleading culture thinks. So there are definitely words and phrases that are specifically for cheerleading.” Therefore, not only does paralanguage, such as the rate and tone of voice, help this micro culture build a collectivistic environment but they also have their own cheerleading language. Having this language makes this culture stick out from other micro cultures. It is a specific language that others may not understand unless they become part of the cheerleading culture or decide to learn about it either through 1 Nonverbal Communication[Type text] 1 observation or talking to someone that is a part of the culture. This language is universal to cheerleaders all over the world; it brings cheerleaders from all over together and relatable to one another. To conclude, the cheerleading culture roots itself into collectivistic values through nonverbal communication. They display these values through nonverbal communication in dress, kinesics, and paralanguage. When interacting with this culture, don’t assume them to be like the cheerleaders you have seen in movies, and don’t criticize or argue that they are not a sport until you have observed what they are all about. In the future, it would be interesting to take a look at other squads around the country to see if these same root values are important. It would also be helpful to observe a practice further into the season. Another study that may be interesting is to interview people outside of the culture and get their input on what they believe values of the cheer culture to be and if they feel cheerleaders’ communication is more effective nonverbally. Through physical appearance, kinesics, and paralanguage cheerleaders have formed a collectivistic culture. References Anderson, E. (2008, June). “I Used to Think Women Were Weak”: Orthodox Masculinity, Gender Segregation, and Sport. Sociological Forum, 23(2), 257- 280. Retrieved September 25, 2009, doi:10.1111/j.1573-7861.2008.00058.x Barnett, L. (2007, 2007 2nd Quarter). Winners and Losers: The Effects of Being Allowed or Denied Entry into Competitive Extracurricular Activities. Journal of Leisure Research, 39(2), 316-344. Retrieved September 25, 2009, from Academic Search Premier database. Bettis, P., & Adams, N. (2006, May). Short skirts and breast juts: Cheerleading, eroticism and schools. Sex Education, 6(2), 121-133. Retrieved September 25, 2009, doi:10.1080/14681810600578800 Carroll University Athletic Department. "Cheerleading | Carroll University Pioneers." Home | Official Athletics Site | Carroll University Pioneers. 2 Oct. 2009 <http://athletics.carrollu.edu/intramurals/cheerleading/>. Universal Cheerleaders Association : History And Philosophy. Universal Cheerleaders Association - Where America Cheers:: Home. 2 Oct. 2009 <http://www.uca.com/HistoryAndPhilosophy.aspx>.
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