David Hoang (11) cheers with his teammates at a football game earlier this school year. Hoang is one of two male cheerleaders on Franklin’s team. Photo by Mari Dika.

Bright lights against the dark blue sky, all eyes focused on the smiling teenagers dressed in uniforms, waving their arms and shouting catchy rhymes. Standing in front of the field, cheering for the success of the football players, braving the weather in short skirts and lightweight clothing, the smell of hotdogs and nachos filling the air. One cheerleader in particular stands out: David Hoang (11). He is one of two male cheerleaders on Franklin’s cheer team.

Hoang has been part of the cheer team since June 2017. Originally developed by men, cheer eventually evolved into the female-dominated sport it is known as today. Despite having a lack of background in athletics, knowing his weakness with time commitment, and difficulties concerning finance, Hoang was determined to join the team. Watching the cheerleaders perform at school assemblies and sports games with their dazzling, bright smiles and contagious enthusiasm projected to the crowds, all while kicking and jumping in the air, was more than enough to reinforce Hoang’s passion towards trying out. “I wanted to inspire others to do whatever they wanted without caring what others thought of them, especially things that they were not used to doing,” says Hoang.

To Hoang, the idea of being the only other male cheerleader, aside from his teammate Irvin Torres (12), fueled his desire to defy stereotypes and assumptions concerning cheerleaders. “Nothing should have labels,” says Hoang. “Break the rules and become the odd one out.” When cheerleading, the moments that impact him the most are when the crowd cheers along with him and his teammates. The overwhelmingly loud sounds of clapping and cries of support are the moments that Hoang cherishes the most. “Cheer is a sport that involves the cheerleaders, the players, and the entire audience,” he says.

As with any sport, struggles and difficulties are bound to be present in the life of an athlete. Hoang discovered the harsh reality of being a male cheerleader in an environment in which it is deemed as “unusual” or “weird” to be one. Although Hoang did not receive as much of a negative response as he had anticipated, he didn’t receive as many positive responses either. “Obviously there are homophobic, sexual, or other negative thoughts that go through people’s minds when they see me,” states Hoang. Getting used to the idea of staying late after school and fully committing to cheer was not only hard for Hoang to accept, but his parents as well. “Coming from a strict family, it was hard for my parents to have to pick me up at 10 p.m. after games, with me staying at school for sometimes 13 hours,” said Hoang. The cheer team also faces neglect and challenges when it comes to being recognized as an actual sports team. “We don’t have an official practice space in the new facility and are constantly left out in athletic categories such as weekly announcements and the school newspaper.”

To Hoang and his teammates, cheer is a serious commitment filled with both positive and negative moments. The memories created, the friendships made, and the opportunity for Franklin to see the creative talent the cheer team has to offer, are just a few of the many reasons Hoang decided to try out for the team. Willingness to face his fears and look doubt straight in the eye helped Hoang to grow and advance as a person. Challenging his inner weakness and becoming an ambassador for Franklin, Hoang proves that stereotypes concerning gender can easily be tackled no matter what the circumstance might be.

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