Camp is a great way to start off your cheer year – It’s the time to learn new cheers, stunts, dances, and above all it’s the time to get to know your new teammates. Each year, members of your team will graduate or move on from cheerleading, but this doesn’t mean that you won’t remain friends. But these friendships don’t form only at practice and games, these lifelong bonds also develop off the mat.
I cheered in high school at Choctaw High School, in college at the University of Central Florida and I’m an instructor for UCA. These three experiences have shaped my life and the person I am today, and it all started at summer camp!
Each camp I have attended, either as a camper or an instructor, has been its own unique experience. I always walk away with a closer bond with the friends I already have and I’m always forming new friendships.
I started attending camp as a freshman in high school, and I had no idea what to expect. The only thing I could imagine was cheering and stunting all day, which we did do a lot of, but my most memorable moments were bonding with my teammates. Some of the most fun times were dressing up for the theme day and helping do each other’s hair! My 10 year high school reunion is coming up (crazy!) but, I am still friends with my teammates, I’ve even been in some of their weddings!
When I stepped on to the bus to head to Alabama for my first college camp with UCF, I knew no one…. NO ONE. But, I had a 13 hour bus ride ahead of me and all I could think was – what am I going to do for 13 hours?! Luckily, I met my best friends in the entire world. Even though none of us live in the same city anymore, 10 years later I still talk to them on a daily basis. We plan a girls’ trip every year and I will be a bridesmaid in two of their weddings this year. The bonds we developed on that first bus ride to Alabama as freshmen set the tone for the rest of my college career. Not only did I have friends on the field, but I had a family off the field. I’ll also never forget the practices that sometimes challenged our friendship, but those times formed us in to the individuals we are today.
And then there is UCA staff! I have taught more staff trainings, high school and college summer camps, and international camps than I can count. Each one of these experiences has taught me something different, and as for the bonding I’ve done with the amazing people that I am fortunate to call my co-workers…there aren’t words to describe what they mean to me. I also feel lucky to say that I work next to the teammates and instructors that I formed these bonds with every day in the Varsity headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee.
The friends that I call my family and the experiences I have had all started with the bonds formed at summer camp! Take the time to get to know your teammates; they will be your live long friends!
- Jackie Martin