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Hi everyone, it’s Mhkeeba. Welcome to the Pro Cheerleading Blog: The Truth Behind the Poms! If this is your first time to our website, check it out and let us know what you think. This will be home to a weekly blog post every Friday and our future merchandise (yes, I promise it’s really coming!). This is where I should insert the typical disclaimer – all of the views expressed here are my own so I do not speak for Brittany, lol.

The Pro Cheerleading Podcast has been on break since Season 4 ended late November. It always feels like such a long break from recording and grinding out each episode of the podcast, but it is necessary to recharge my batteries, re-center myself, and make some important decisions about the future of the podcast. I set the goal to get the Pro Cheerleading Blog going as a way to stay connected to our audience and to become more grounded in the purpose of making the podcast in the first place.

To be honest with you all, I felt like it might be time to end the podcast after our One-Year Cheerversary and mentioned it to Brittany during our flight to Oakland. For the first time, I started to feel a little burnt out from the grind of producing the podcast and felt like I might have been losing the passion to keep it moving forward. Just for the simple fact that it felt like a grind instead of two best friends just having fun talking about the world of professional cheerleading that we love. I reflected on the past year of the podcast all the way from the beginning and was struck by the title of our very first episode, This Is Why We Do It because I couldn’t really answer for myself why I should continue with the podcast.

I have taken advantage of the time during the break to reflect on my true purpose behind doing the podcast and to make the right decision of whether to move forward. I listened back to some of our earlier episodes and realized how much I have grown and learned from meeting so many people that I respect and admire. I went back through some thoughtful messages from our listeners who reached out to let us know what they learned from the podcast or how it helped them on their audition journeys. Even with all of that reflection, it still felt like a celebration of life type of stroll down memory lane of something I appreciated from my past but it didn't feel like something that should be carried forward into the future.

I know the title of the post is dramatic and a little extra but thankfully, I had a breakthrough last weekend that I wanted to share with you in this first blog post if 2020. I had an epiphany – the podcast absolutely must live on for as long as podcasts are still a thing! There are just too many beautiful and inspiring stories that must be told and this is the first and only platform that shares these stories of the great women and men of our pro cheer and dance community. That was my epiphany...but let me tell you how I came to that "aha moment" and all about the woman I would like to thank for taking me there – Kayla Shabre.

Kayla is a former 49ers Gold Rush Cheerleader who danced with the team for six seasons! She earned her undergraduate degree in Psychology, Master’s Degree in Sports Psychology and is graduating with her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology this spring – talk about freaking impressive! I spoke with Kayla about potentially doing an interview on the podcast to discuss her dissertation on “How Retired Professional Cheerleaders Adjust to Retirement,” which is the first dissertation ever on professional cheerleaders – once again hella impressive!!

What started as an informational interview turned into a pretty emotional conversation of the physical, mental and emotional effects retirement from pro cheerleading has on us all. It made me realize the connection between my own decision to retire after 5 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks and the decision to start the podcast. It’s not that I hadn’t thought about the connection before, but it was only at the lighthearted surface level. I retired from pro cheerleading, missed it like crazy, decided to start a podcast with my best friend. Problem solved, passion reignited, everything is good again – THE END!

But had I really been honest with myself about what I was truly feeling during that first year of post-retirement before I started the podcast? Was I really happy with my decision – after all it was my decision to retire? Did I somehow become depressed over that year from missing dancing? Did I experience any loss of myself or my identity by letting go of cheerleading? Did I talk about my feelings or keep them inside because I felt like people really wouldn’t understand? Did I start the podcast as some desperate attempt to hold onto my life as pro cheerleader? Did I want to end the podcast because I felt like it was time to officially let go?

I’m still mulling over these questions that spurred from my conversation with Kayla and don’t have all of the answers yet, but there are a few things that became very clear from speaking with her. Our individual experiences as pro cheerleaders and dancers might be very unique, but collectively, these experiences have us so powerfully connected to each other. We have similar ups and downs, we know the hard work and dedication it takes to get and maintain a spot on a team, and for those of us who retire – we know how hard it can be to say goodbye. And nobody outside of the pro cheerleading and dance world gets it quite like we do.

Whatever my reasons were for initially wanting to do the podcast, what I learned is that the future of the Pro Cheerleading Podcast is beyond me on a personal level and has become so much more about all of YOU! Sharing all of your unique experiences, stories, and voices is what will remain at the heart and soul of the Pro Cheerleading Podcast. That alone will provide enough fuel and inspiration I need to keep it going. Hopefully our bond as current, former and aspiring pro cheerleaders and dancers will enable the podcast to continue to grow with you and support you every step of your journey. Kayla, I just want to say THANK YOU for reaching out and opening this door of communication and self-reflection that I so badly needed.

Now I am feeling pretty excited to keep working through how to prepare for the launch of Season 5 in the very near future and absolutely cannot WAIT to introduce you to this magnificent young woman with some insightful and therapeutic research to share with you! So stay tuned to the weekly blog posts and until then…keep your eyes on the sidelines!

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