For these mothers, their daughter's spot on the cheerleading team was something worth fighting for. (Literally.)
Michelle Rains, 39, an Atlanta mom of three, is facing charges after attacking another woman at her daughter's cheerleading camp. She was charged with simple battery, and says the argument started when she wanted her nine-year-old daughter placed on a different squad than the one assigned, but the president of the cheerleading clinic refused.
Rains denies hitting Nancy Cunningham, president of the Sharon Springs Cheerleading Association. "I did not punch her," she told FOX 5 Atlanta. "I did take my three fingers and put them underneath her chin and push her head back....I think it escalated to a point where it shouldn't have."
Julie Ann Bell, 39, an Oklahoma mom was arrested for conspiring to injure high school cheerleading coach Bethany Lorenz, for allegedly picking on her daughter. Bell was charged with conspiracy assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.
In the infamous "Texas Cheerleader Murder" scandal that spawned several made-for-TV movies, Wanda Holloway, a Texas mother who tried to mold her daughter into a perfect cheerleader, became furious when she discovered her neighbor Verna Heath's daughter Amber was a cheerleading pro. So she plotted to kill both Verna and her daughter, but was arrested before she could execute her plan.
And who could forget the seven Florida cheerleaders who brutally attacked a fellow classmate for comments posted on her MySpace page?
But are these crimes isolated incidences, or does cheerleading itself breed violence?
"Cheerleading is unique because unlike other sports where kids are required to be fast, fit, and ferocious, in addition, the girls are also expected to be perky, cute, and thin--not unlike a beauty pageant," says Jane Greer, Ph.D., a New York-based family therapist.
And it makes sense--just consider popular culture. From flicks like Bring it On, American Beauty, and Love Don't Cost a Thing, the in-crowd are usually cast as cheerleaders. So it seems inevitable that making the squad is not just a measure of one's talent, it's also indicative of a girl's social status and self-worth.
To add even more pressure, cheerleading is more competitive than
ever. Long gone are the days of simple round-offs and one-handed
cartwheels. These days, cheerleaders are expected to perform
complicated kicks, spins, tumbles, jumps, flips, bouncy pyramids, and
otherwise keep their bodies in tip-top shape--similar to a professional
gymnast. And these advanced routines can be harmful. In fact, a recent study conducted by the University of Southern California says cheerleading is more dangerous than any other sport, accounting for 65 percent of all catastrophic injuries in high school girls' athletics and 67 percent in colleges.
But how do violent mothers fit in the picture? "Aggressive or 'mean moms' are not unlike typical stage parents who push their kid into show business," says Greer. "That doesn't mean they pressure their kids to cheer, but if the mother had an unhappy childhood or wasn't popular in high school, she may want her daughter to experience what happiness she didn't."
"These moms feel pressure for their daughters to perform and the teen rivalry by extention of their kids and become overprotective," she adds. "Except these moms take it to the extreme, which only compounds any pressure girls feel and can ultimately make their daughters more aggressive and competitive, not unlike a bully."
"That said, not every mother of a cheerleader has the potential to become out of control," she says. "If your daughter wants to cheer, a parent should encourage that, as long as the elements of competition are kept in check."
"The key is to make sure girls are well-rounded in their interests. Do they love cheering? Well, that's great. Do they have other interests and a healthy self-esteem? Let's hope so," she says.
"The bottom line is, like any other hobby, kids shouldn't feel like they only have one claim to fame," says Greer. "Both mother and daughter should always keep it perspective--at the end of the day, it's only a sport."