By David “Dirk” Smith, M.Sc., SDL (He/Him)
Working with the professional soccer team during our preseason training, we’ve had a few matches already contested with other teams around our local area as is normal in the preseason. These matches don’t count for any points or rankings, but instead offer us coaches and sport psychologists insight into how our athletes are performing in match conditions so we that we can adapt our training plans accordingly.
One of the biggest things we noticed regarding our team is that, while they were able to execute the tasks and drills, we conducted during training and even performed well in inner-team scrimmages, once it came match time it all fell apart. The athletes were hesitant and less willing to engage with the opponent. In short, they were lacking confidence and were having difficulties in being aggressive in their gameplay.
I (Dirk) recently attended an event called the Sin City Classic; it is the world’s largest annual LGBTQI multi-sport tournament in the world. The Sin City Classic offers 20 different sports and brings out anywhere from 8000 to 10,000 athletes a year to compete in Las Vegas, Nevada. One of the sports offered at the Sin City Classic is competitive cheerleading, spearheaded by an organization called the Pride Cheerleading Association or PCA. The PCA is an umbrella organization that supports cheerleading squads all over the United States of America who perform cheer routines and stunts in their local communities, especially at LGBTQI pride festivals, local sports events, and exhibition performances. What sets PCA apart are two important things, the first is its emphasis on inclusive cheerleading that invites adult volunteer athletes of all shapes, sizes, colors, national backgrounds, gender identities and sexual orientations to try out and become cheerleaders. The second, and the most important of all, is what the PCA calls “Charitable Cheerleading” in which the main mission of the PCA is to use cheerleading as a platform to raise money for local LGBTQI oriented charities within the communities that they are performing. To date, PCA squads have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars LGBTQI charities within their local communities. Thus, PCA’s participation at the Sin City Classic isn’t just about organizing a cheer competition, it also is about doing what cheerleaders do, attending other sports events to cheer on the athletes as and to raise money for a local LGBTQI charity.
With 13 member teams (and several more in development) all over the US, the Sin City Classic is one of only two regular events that brings the different PCA squads together to compete, but also to form a PCA wide squad of athletes to support the other sports at the Sin City Classic. With each athlete wearing their own team’s uniform when the PCA wide cheer squad comes together, it shows off the diversity of its membership. After my own sports competition at the Sin City Classic was cancelled this year due to Covid, I was invited by PCA’s marketing coordinator, Sara Toogood to join the PCA for the event and to document their journey. For this weekend, the PCA had two important missions, the first was to get on a bus with six different PCA squads, Cheer San Francisco, Cheer Los Angeles, Cheer Salt Lake, Cheer Portland, Cheer Seattle, and Cheer Tacoma where we would travel to four different sports tournaments at the Sin City Classic. Each stop’s goal was to show off some excellent cheer stunts, fundraise for a local Las Vegas charity called the Golden Rainbow which provides housing and emergency financial assistance for people living with HIV/AIDS, and to perform a 60 second cheer routine set to music, choreographed and taught by Colyn Fiendel-Milani of Cheer New York. The second was to join them for the cheer competition the next day at the Sin City Classic. This article focuses on my journey with PCA on what I call the “Cheer Bus”.
By Dirk Smith, MSc, SDL (He/Him).
In 2020, gay men and women are living in one of the most progressive periods in modern gay history. With same sex marriage legalized in many western countries and general attitudes towards gay and lesbian people becoming more accepting, why do we still face the struggle of having so few, if any openly gay male athletes in professional team sports?
David "Dirk" Smith M.Sc, SDL, CSCS, (He/Him) is a sport psychology expert, strength & conditioning coach, swimming coach, sports diversity leader, published research scientist, teacher, writer, journalist, and athlete. He brings over 12 years of experience, education, and training to empower athletes to build self efficacy, strength, confidence, and express themselves through sport.