USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘cheer’

“Faith over fear.”

Informant: At my gym, we always say, “Faith over fear.” And that was like something we used to say all the time, and that was the one point that I was even semi religious in my life.


My informant is a freshman at the University of Southern California. She is from San Diego, California. We had this conversation in the study room of my sorority house.


This is interesting because it somewhat can be related to a ritual before going out to perform. My informant was a cheerleader for a while, so this would work as a ritual and a superstition for some kind of performance she would ever do. It seems that many people have religious rituals they do before a performance, such as one of my informants doing the Catholic cross before going on in every ballet number she did. These manifest even in people who aren’t religious, and my informant is not religious anymore. This is interesting and shows some type of dependency on the idea of some hope for help from some other place, even without the belief that a God or higher power exists. It seems to be a type of mechanism that people just develop.

Rituals, festivals, holidays


So for competitive cheer, Nationals is 2 days… so if you make it to Finals, the second day, we all sit in a room with our coaches. The lights are off and, uh, our coaches, they prerecord just their voices.. so there will be like a themed song throughout and then with that, each of our main coaches will give a speech they recorded on there.

I cry like a baby,  like I am heaving and everyone cries and it’s supposed to inspire you for the next day… they talk about the year and I bawl like a little, little baby and just sit on the bed and they cry, too.

But also, sometimes they put funny jokes in there. My senior year  “Inspirationals” one was really rough.

How long has this been a tradition on your team?

Uh…probably like 20 years?

Are the people on the team the same every year…like you’re all really close?

Typically, yeah… I’ve stayed with my coaches for 8 years and we’ve switched companies, like our entire cheer gym completely ended and a new one started, but most of the people were the same.

Why do you think they’ve carried this on?

I guess…it’s meant to reflect on the whole year and to inspire you for the next day and just doing it for the family that’s around you. They have Worlds this week! Ahhhh!!!


The informant, my roommate, told me this one-on-one in our room. This is the first time she ever described this tradition to me, but I have heard a lot about her cheer team over the course of living with her.


Obviously, based on the emphasis my informant places on all her crying, this ritual means a lot to the cheerleaders. And Nationals is a high stakes situation, so reflecting on the year and preparation makes a lot of sense.


Shabu-ya cheer game

“I was a cheerleader in 11th and 12th grade and on the way to football games with the football players we sang the song shabu-ya.  In it, you say the name of someone on the bus and then the rest of the bus calls back “hey.”  You then say a set of rhymes ending with something personal that makes everyone laugh, these are often insulting.  This song was only performed on the way to games not on the way back.”

My informant thinks this song was meant to build up cheer before the football games.  Her high school was over 100 years old and football was a huge tradition and this song goes all the way back to the founding of the school.

The insults may rile up emotion better than just normal cheers.  Also the insults may be a way of bonding because when everyone gets broken down together they share that moment and grow stronger together.  All of this attention just to get people ready to cheer at the football game proves that football is a big deal in Irvine.