College Does anyone else have ADHD and struggle with remembering cheers/chants/dances?

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Apr 13, 2019
Hi, everyone!

Here is a bit of background on why I'm asking this question: I'm 22 years old, and have never done cheer before. I've been doing ballet since I was 19 but before that, I never did any sort of dance or cheer. As someone who has grown up with ADHD, I know there are a lot of things I can do and that ADHD may make them harder, but not impossible. But recent events have me questioning whether or not this is realistic. Last week, I tried out for my college's cheer team. I go to a small, historically women's college, and cheer isn't big at my school. But this year, there was a ton of interest. The first day, I couldn't make it because I had a two-hour ballet class during the tryouts, so they sent me the videos over email. Unfortunately, the videos weren't sent until early the next morning, so I didn't really have a chance to look at them until after my classes. The second day went super well, and I picked up the cheers, chants, and dance somewhat fast. During the second day, someone asked the captain if the tryouts would be individual or group tryouts, and we were told they would not be individual. However, the next day (the last day of tryouts), they changed it last minute and told us ten minutes before the tryouts that they would be individual and that basically, the tryouts were going to be nothing like the way they told us to expect.

They explained that they would go over it one last time before the tryouts and then it'd be a group thing. But instead of doing this, they told us that they'd just evaluate us and let us go our separate ways. Unfortunately for me, I had gotten there super early and was the second person to go. I practiced all the way up until the tryout itself. But as soon as they said that the tryouts would be individual, it threw me way off. Historically, individual tryouts and evaluations have not gone well for me. In the past when trying out for a spot in a very good ballet school, I once again had to simply rely on working memory that I just don't have (without being told that I would have to do this!) I've spent months working on choreography just to still not know how to even start it, taken rigorous private lessons, worked on choreo three days a week in class, and STILL not been able to retain all of it. Some of it, but not all. So, when they called me back there, I was really fighting off a panic attack. I got in there, and couldn't do anything. I couldn't remember the cheers. I could barely do the dance. I couldn't even recite the chants. I just stared at them like a deer in the headlights. So, unsurprisingly, I didn't make the team. I know there were a lot of factors here that made this significantly harder for me to be successful, but there were others there that had several of the same hurdles as me that didn't seem to have any problem. When I was in the group setting, even though I was a little off with my timing, I was able to learn the cheers and chants and everything in just two hours. Individually, I just forgot everything. And if I'm being honest, even if I was given another shot, I would not be able to do it individually. My brain just does not work that way. I retain technique, I remember the music, I remember timing pretty well usually. But I cannot remember anything else unless I see it in front of me.

I just feel really crappy, honestly. I hate that my brain struggles to retain this type of information. I know that it's possible for me to do these things, but it's not very often that I'm given the chance or even fair opportunities to show that I can do it. It's one thing to get cut from my school's team, but I want to do competition cheer eventually. If I can't even remember a few cheers and a dance, am I really cut out for harder things like comp cheer? I'm already too old to be starting cheer for the first time in general. I can't also be genuinely terrible at it. I understand why I was cut, and honestly, it probably would have been more insulting to be put on the team after that awful evaluation. There is no way they could have put me on the team without it being done out of pity. It was THAT bad.

Does anyone else have ADHD and struggle with remembering cheers/chants/dances?

Regardless of whether or not I'm cut out for this, I'm going to keep trying. I already had plans to take cheer classes, learn tumbling, and go to clinics at this gym near me. I've been doing ballet for three years now and I still struggle with retaining combinations in class and remembering choreography at all, but I love the art just like I love this sport so I guess I'll just keep subjecting myself to accidental ableism and humiliation until I find teachers and coaches who hear and see me for how passionate I am about these things (I've already found that with dance!) I guess I just want to know that I'm not as alone in this as I feel.
Good morning.

I also have ADHD pretty strongly (as well as my mom and son) so I do know the struggles of having it. Motions and dances were never my strong suit, but I was able to eventually pick them up.

I think, potentially, you have a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy in your head. You have ADHD so you believe you are not good at motions so you are stressed out about learning motions and when it comes time to perform those motions your brain freezes!

Stress can do this. Some people see it in a form of test anxiety where they studied for weeks for a timed test, but once the timer starts it is like they never studied at all.

The reason I want to make this point is that while ADHD can make it more challenging to learn motions, I don't believe it is the reason for the recall challenges. I think working on a positive mental mindset going into a situation can help. Make sure you are taking care of your mental health. Maybe some CBD or a therapist could help. The nice thing about 2021 is we can all talk and recognize mental health challenges as they are just as debilitating sometimes as physical ones.

Btw, ADHD does have some advantages too! Usually we tend to be some of the most bubbly and excited people in the room that everyone loves to talk to (works well for cheer! hah).

I'd like to wrap up saying if cheer is something you really want to do focus on developing your mental toughness and I think the motions will come.
ADHD has become the label for anyone that doesn't learn the primary way society has deemed "the right way" to teach, which is in a large group, talking at you. The fact we medicate instead of transforming our educational system when we know not everyone will learn well that way, is most definitely defective. As @King said ADHD has many advantages, as well. Embrace your style of being taught. ADHD and auditory processing labeling tells us we don't normally learn well in large groups being instructed vocally. Try recording cheers and playing them alone in the car or at home. Try writing them out several times dividing them in sections, if needed. Try videoing motions from the back and front and watching them many times before performing the motions along with it.

Paralyzing stress can be from lack of confidence, poor planning, OR feeling out of control. Please know the pandemic has thrown so much change at us concerning schedules, the way we do daily life and what we normally never thought twice about (toilet paper). Last year, our family was dealing with the pandemic, my husband was diagnosed with colon cancer and he lost his job. Feeling out of control was an understatement. We ended up going to a different state park every weekend, we talked and listened to music going to and from, we took in amazing scenery, and most of all, took control of what we could control. King is right, therapy is amazing and it comes in all different forms. Find your means of therapy, embrace it, and often.
Hi, I’m so glad this is being discussed.

I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was twelve. For me, it manifests itself as lots of daydreaming. It’s very hard to focus, unless it’s something I’m super into. And even then, that’s not a guarantee.

That said, learning physical stuff was never an issue. I think maybe because I’m a learn-by-doing person. So learning cheer and dance routines all on top of each other never got to me. It can be done.

I think this helps:

1. The singsongy nature of sidelines often aids in implementing the choreo into the muscle memory (also most sidelines are, in essence, one 8-count long if it helps to think like that).

2. Stay on top of those sidelines and chants between now and the next tryouts. Odds are most won’t change. So if you can keep them memorized from now until then, you’ll have an advantage for next time.

3. With any luck, they won’t enforce an individual tryout next year. That’s just a weird decision because there is never an occasion where a girl will need to cheer by herself. It just creates unnecessary stress. So that’s something that might work against you next year if they go that direction, but I wouldn’t look at succumbing to that stress as a personal failure. It’s a weird choice on their part. I’ve never once participated in/held an individual tryout. It’s kind of outdated.

4. Your experience in ballet already proves that you’re capable of retaining choreography. You’re already there.

This just sounds more like you got overwhelmed by stress than some sort nascent inability on your part. It seems like you’re physically capable of this stuff, but your brain betrayed you. Take the next year and learn methods to stay mentally and emotionally focused, whatever that takes: breathing exercises, meditation, meds if you’re open to that. Whatever works.

And as people have said before, just remember: ADHD has its advantages. Without the random, hyper-focused bursts of ADHD energy in my life, I wouldn’t have my encyclopaedic knowledge of every single medication we use at my job. Also without ADHD energy, I wouldn’t be able to spend days researching niche interests like the LSU drill team for no reason at all outside of “they are sparkly so this is obviously worth my time.”

So you know, you take the good with the bad.

Good luck for next year. I’m sure it’ll go way better now that you have some experience under your belt.
I don't have adhd but I struggled a lot to learn dances fast when I did cheer. It seriously would take me a week to learn. I just liked doing tumbling and stunting.