But, in order to even qualify for the Dunbar High School varsity squad, Taylor has to conquer her fear and complete the tuck.  After tryouts, a tearful Taylor says:  "Making the squad is really important, because I'm a cheerleader.  And that's all that I do.  If I didn't make it, I don't know what I'd do."  Later after a somewhat successful tryout (you'll have to watch), Merri Lynne remarks, "I think we're going to call a sports psychologist." 

It's a lot to take in in just one episode.  But I sat there wondering, first and foremost, if we're asking children to grow up too fast.  Some of the expectations placed on these 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds seem pretty steep, if unrealistic.  No wonder the water works seem to be ongoing for these cheerleaders!  Girls are trying to become young women during these tender teen years, but are their mothers expecting too much from them and too fast?  Should a child feel like parental love is available to them only if they do as well as their parents think they should in a particular activity?  These are good questions to ask.

I can appreciate the cheerleading mindset even though I don't personally subscribe to it.  Clearly, it's a sport that takes up a lot of time, money and emotional and physical efforts.  And while its benefits may seem fleeting on the surface, after watching "Cheerleader Nation" I'm beginning to think that there is a positive take-away:  the strong work ethic and high standard of excellence required should translate well for these cheerleaders in their collegiate years, as well as future careers and family lives. 

Perhaps cheerleaders are prepared for hanging tough in real-life situations and contributing positively to society thanks to blood, sweat and years of practice and performance.  I truly hope so, because that can only mean a beneficial impact for an even bigger, greater nation at large.  Go team! 

"Cheerleader Nation" premieres Sunday night, March 12, 2006, at 10 p.m./9 C.T. on Lifetime Television.  

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