Cheerleaders In Danger
August 12, 2005 (PRLEAP.COM) Sports News“No other sport requires as much from the throat and body at the same time,” says Renee Grant-Williams, a leading voice coach and communication-skills expert. “As exciting as it is to root for the home team, leading yells can seriously damage your vocal chords. At a minimum, you risk becoming hoarse or losing your voice. At worst, you can develop voice-altering nodes that could call for surgery.”
“One thing coaches can’t do is tell these yell leaders to tone down the volume on their cheers. It’s simply not going to happen,” says Grant-Williams. “So, if you want to help them, you have to recognize that ‘cheer softly’ is not an option.”
What coaches can do is urge cheerleaders to take other precautions to guarantee that their voices last as long as the season does. For instance, cheerleaders can learn to use their bodies – not their throats – to protect their fragile voice mechanisms.
“Cheering routines draw heavily upon gymnastics and dance techniques,” says Grant-Williams. “Why not use similar lower body strength and physical control to support their voices? If cheerleaders would breathe low and support their yells by standing with a solid grip that presses into the ground, it would help take the pressure off their throats.”
Cheerleaders are routinely exposed to conditions, such as rapid body temperature changes due to intense spurts of activity and unpredictable weather conditions, that practically invite the common cold. They should take steps to prevent upper respiratory ailments.
“Just as in football, the best defense for your voice is a good offense,” says Grant-Williams. “Don’t wait until you wake up one morning without a voice to take care of it.”
Grant-Williams offers tips for keeping cheerleading voices in top form:
· Drink plenty of fluids. If it’s cold, use warm liquids to soothe your throat.
· Eat a good balance of protein and carbohydrates.
· Stay away from alcohol and caffeine which dehydrate your body.
· Layer clothing so you can add or remove garments as the weather dictates.
· Have a scarf handy during cold weather to keep your throat warm.
· Get enough rest and sleep to keep your body’s immune system functioning.
· Chew gum, a piece of hard candy, or throat lozenge to keep the juices flowing.
· Gargle with warm salt water to reduce swelling if your throat becomes swollen.
“If you’re sick, stay home in bed until you feel better,” says Grant-Williams. “You and the rest of your cheering squad will be better off in the long run because you will have dodged a bullet, preserved your voice, and not put others at risk.”
Grant-Williams offers advice in her book, “Voice Power: Using Your Voice to Captivate, Persuade, and Command Attention” (AMACOM Books, New York). She coaches business executives, sales professionals and celebrities including Faith Hill, the Dixie Chicks, Linda Ronstadt, Tim McGraw, and Christina Aguilera. She presents speaking programs to organizations throughout the United States and has been quoted by Business Week, AP, UPI, Cosmopolitan, TV Guide, Southern Living, the Chicago Tribune, the Boston Globe and the San Francisco Chronicle. She has appeared on broadcast outlets including ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, Fox, Bravo, USA, MTV, BBC, and NPR. Grant-Williams is a former instructor at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as well as the former director of the Division of Vocal Music at the University of California, Berkeley.
For more information or to schedule an interview with Renee Grant-Williams, call 615-259-4900 or visit Renee@CommunicationSkillTraining.com.