As I wander through Broadbeach, I feel like I need to give myself a good shake and wake up.
This is a bizarre dream, right?
Or some kind of not-so-scary nightmare?
Surely I wasn’t actually awake and walking down the streets of a tourist-focused beachside suburb. Something weird is going on.
I look around and all I can see are sparkles and sequins. Extra-large bows and shimmery lycra are everywhere. Shiny backpacks covered in that silver holographic material abound.
And these bizarre looking girls sporting over-the-top makeup, fake smiles and high ponytails.
I feel like I'm wandering though some strange My-Little-Pony-Meets-Barbie world not the beachy-touristy place that I expected.
After a few enquiries, I discover that the Gold Coast Convention Centre, located just across the road, is hosting the National Cheerleading Championships.
Two and a half thousand competitors plus their passionate and enthusiastic families have descended on us.
I’m a synchronised swimmer. I’ve gone through all that stuff with sequinned costumes, perfect hair and fake smiles. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.
Although, if I’m honest, I was really hopeless at the fake smiling bit. I could never see the point.
But I have never, ever been around 2,500 synchronised swimmers in full regalia. Accompanied by the requisite scary mothers.
Or possibly entire scary families come to cheer them along!
Working as a swimming coach in my 20’s was a great experience: it showed me exactly who I didn’t want to be as a parent. It doesn’t matter what sport we’re talking about here, some parents are just nuts.
There was one pivotal moment for me. I was teaching some 7-9 year old kids to dive in 1.8m of water: “put your arms over your ears, hands together, bend over and just plop into the water”, that kind of thing.
After the lesson, the head coach came over to me. Standing with his back firmly to the grandstand where the parents were sitting, he said, “No matter what I say, no matter what you’re thinking, I need you to look really sorry and upset. Do you promise?”
Unsure what to do, I just nodded.
“Right,” he said, “One of the mothers complained that her son hit his head on the bottom of the pool so she has to take him to hospital with a possible concussion.”
I opened my mouth to protest because this didn't make any sense. The water was 1.8m deep and the kid was less than a metre tall! Not one of those kids touched the bottom, they even had a competition going to see if anyone could touch it. None of them did.
But the coach cut me off before I could say anything, “I know, I know! You promised to look sorry and contrite! Just look upset, not angry! I was watching; the kid’s lying.”
As the coach carried on with my ‘telling off’, I concentrated very hard on keeping a contrite expression on my face and glanced at the people in the grandstand.
The mother, predictably, was looking angry, while at the same time looking smugly satisfied at my ‘reprimand'.
The son, little s**t that he was, was gleefully dancing behind her, swapping a gloating, victorious expression when her back was turned, with a pain-filled, helpless victim expression, whenever she looked at him.
That was a defining moment for me. And for my kids. I swore that I would never, ever turn into one of those mothers.
It did happen on a few occasions, mind. A handful of times, one of the kids sucked me into supporting them in what turned out to be a wholly fabricated story.
The child in question wholeheartedly regretted manipulating me like that.
I rarely involved myself in Parents Associations at school or kids sports for the same reason: they tend to attract the intense, fanatical parents whose life is utterly devoted to their children’s success. They’re that most dangerous breed of human: Homo Vicarien, humans that live vicariously through their kids.
Today, Broadbeach is packed to the rafters with them. It's a human behavioural experts dream.
The female Homo Vicarien wear clothes that match or co-ordinate with their kids. This often involves oversized baseball jackets in their team colours (or their child's favourite colour. Maybe I've got that the wrong way round, though: it's possibly the mothers' favourite colour that the child is wearing). Metallic detailing is essential on these jackets, along with glittery lettering, mostly spelling out the troop name.
Cheerleading troops have very interesting names: “Force Elite All Stars”, “Xplosion”, “Cheer Factor” and “REBEL 4ORCE”. Astronomical names are big in this starry world.
As are names that have anything to do with explosions.
A more interesting phenomenon were those mothers who had things like ‘Team Tyla-Jaydye’ or ‘2018 Champion: Cheltzee’ embroidered brazenly/hopefully on the back.
Obviously, these ones aren’t the team-player mothers. These women aren't interested in the team as a whole or making sure everyone wins.
These women take things to a whole new level.
Generally the cause of much bitterness and tension within both the parents and the participants, this breed are only interested in their own child.
They believe that their child is the Star of the team, the one who holds things together and the who wins all the medals for the team.
No other member of the team is as important as their child.
In fact, it would be fair to say that the team would not exist if it wasn’t for their child.
One lady had a highly agitated phone conversation involving many flamboyant arm movements, while sporting a top with the logo “Queer And Dance” printed on it.
I could be completely wrong, since my exposure to the cheerleading world is about five minutes long, but I felt that this was an… interesting name even by their standards.
I was dying to ask her about it, but she looked so agitated and angry I didn’t have the courage to go over and talk to her.
Instead, I treated myself to a happy few minutes pondering the possible causes of her passion.
Maybe someone pipped her daughter to the post for the championship, maybe it was the girl's totally unworthy arch nemesis.
What if her daughter was unfairly eliminated by some judge who didn’t know what they were doing?
Or – ooh, I know – what if the woman had a previous run-in with the judge and she thought that the judge was now getting payback for it?
Perhaps a jealous team member who wanted all the glory, elbowed her daughter at a crucial moment causing her to fall over or mis-step.
It could be that another team/competitor had copied their outfits or <sharp intake of breath> copied the oversized, sparkly bows the girls wore in their high ponytails.
I’m not going to talk about the bows. I keep trying to talk about them and deleting what I write because I just sound like a complete bitch. Which I might be but I don’t necessarily want to sound like one.
I’m just going to say this: oversized bows.
Sparkly oversized bows.
I’m off to Broadbeach again now. Hopefully, I won’t find myself in the Crystal Empire today.
PS In case you’re wondering, I made the little shit who lied about hitting his head pay for the rest of the term. Swimming lessons can be great fun or…
they can be exhausting and very hard work. Mwahaha.
PPS I solved the mystery of the “Queer And Dance” t-shirt logo a little later when I saw someone else with the same top on. The writing actually said “Cheer and Dance”! Oops, lol.
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