From Pastime to Passion


Senior Lillie Crawford has dedicated thousands of hours to cheer and is now headed to Worlds in April

Growing up in Northern Virginia, one of the most competitive areas in the country, kids are pressured into giving up their time to competitive sports and activities by their parents or peers.

According to an article by Vox “[Northern Virginia] is full of highly educated, affluent people, providing a constant reminder of what I am expected to achieve and accomplish both in my career and in my personal life.” For some, this competitive culture is detrimental to their happiness, but for others, it can make a positive impact on their lives. For senior Lillie Crawford, competitive cheer has not just been a hobby but something she loves.

In fourth grade, Crawford began to cheer non-competitively, but quickly realized she wanted to go competitive. One year after she began to cheer, she switched to a competition team, All Star Legacy y1, that resulted in a more rigorous practice schedule. From that team, Crawford has moved on to countless other teams and has ended up at VA Royalty Athletics diamonds.

“I started doing cheer competitively when I was in fifth grade because I started doing just classes, and I really loved it, and I wanted to get better at it and just keep doing it,” said Crawford.

Along with her team, Crawford has traveled around the country, competing almost every weekend from the months of January to April.  Most recently, her team traveled to Dallas to compete in nationals, where her team placed 12th.

“Practices leading up to NCA (National Cheerleaders Association) are actually so hard,” said Crawford. “We just ran through sections of the routine, and even if we made the smallest mistake, our coach would make us do bear crawls up and down the lines of the mat; it was so hard.”

Two weeks before a competition, the already time-consuming practice schedule of Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday, is altered to every day. These practices go from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and are almost an hour away, totaling to 20+ hours per week spent on cheer. Crawford not only does countless hours of prep in the gym leading up these competitions but must also prep in many other ways.

“We make sure that our technique is perfect because there are areas that we lack in difficulty, so we have to make up for that in technique, and I think our coaches are really good at drilling that into our brains. Also, there’s a lot of physical preparation with the packing and the spray tans,” said Crawford.

If the preparation for an average competition wasn’t enough, Crawford’s team qualified for Worlds. For her small team from a small gym, the road to worlds was not so easy. The team had to receive a bid, either paid or at large, to qualify for worlds; both hard things to accomplish for a smaller gym. A bid is essentially just an invitation to compete at the competition.  At their first World’s bid event, Crawford’s team did not receive either bid, as the competition was big. Eventually, at their third competition, her team performed well enough to receive a paid bid, which pays for all accommodations and allowed the team to skip to semi-finals.

Crawford’s team will continue to prep for Worlds until the last weekend of April, when the team will fly down to Orlando to compete. Until then, Crawford will spend her days in the gym, and her weekends at other competitions.