By David “Dirk” Smith, M.Sc., SDL (He/Him)
Since January of 2022, I (David “Dirk” Smith), have accompanied the Pride Cheerleading Association (PCA) on the famous #CheerBus as they travel around to the different sports at the Sin City Classic. The purpose of the PCA and the Cheer Bus is to help raise spirits and bring energy into the different sports events by making cheers, throwing stunts, performing routines, and most importantly, raising money to support the local Las Vegas charity, Golden Rainbow.
Reflecting back on those first two years I spent with PCA on both the Cheer Bus and during the Cheer Competition, I have been witness to the immense growth and epic comeback that both Sin City Classic and PCA have made since the pandemic. More so, how being adopted into the PCA “Fam” as the organization’s videographer and official sport psychology consultant, I have gotten to know PCA members and their stories that have truly inspired me and shown me just how powerful participatory inclusive sport can be. In 2022 when I wrote the first Cheer Bus article, our bus had 20ish cheerleaders, and despite the small group, all 20ish made a strong impression on the different sports we attended. 2023 that number grew hundred-fold and suddenly there were 3 busses with 120 cheerleaders. Now going into 2024, suddenly we’re hitting 150+ cheerleaders and making a grand entrance at every sport the busses stop at.
To see the reaction on people’s face when 150 cheerleaders suddenly come into the venue and watch the energy inside shift in real time is absolutely amazing. The first stop of the day was right in the morning to help Dodgeball kick off their tournament and with hundreds of dodgeballers already inside the YMCA, PCA was there to get the energy up. Rather than doing a full PCA sized choreographed routine, the PCA cheerleaders separated into their member teams and stunt groups to be introduced individually and show off their fabulous skills personally. Following introductions, it was right into bucketing, which is what PCA refers to when going around and collecting donations. As the tournament got underway, it was clear that PCA got everybody going and excited, but as soon as we were there we were on our way to our next stop, Pickle Ball!
Of all the sports and venues, I’ve gotten to accompany PCA to, the Pickleball venue at the Sin City Classic so far is the coolest one we’ve attended. Pickleball courts lining the roof of one of the casino hotels right on Fremont Street, with amazing street art all over the walls of the hotel tower, plus a big open space that was perfect for PCA to do their thing. Pickleball is one of the Sin City Classic’s newest sports and is growing every year almost as fast as PCA has been. Being able to perform on the rooftop of the hotel/casino for the Pickleball crowd was a major highlight of the trip for PCA, with us spending extra time there for some amazing photos and videos.
After hitting lunch at the Pickleball venue, the Cheer Bus(ses) headed to the final venue of the day which consisted of several sports, kickball, beach volleyball and softball. From there PCA split up and hit all three sports at the same time, successfully bringing the spirit and energy to each while raising some solid funds. Coming together then once again for a big performance at softball, Sin City Classic’s largest sport by participation and working the crowd. It’s always fun to see how the crowd reacts to the cheerleaders when they start hitting towers and pyramids, throwing stunts, and making cheers. You can watch the intensity and energy of the game shift almost immediately where suddenly the athletes feel more motivated and engaged. As a sport psychology professional myself, it makes me want to do more research on this effect!
When I first joined PCA to do videography in 2022, I produced my first episode of #SportPsychNStuff, and clearly now it’s time to do an updated episode, both on the impact that 150 cheerleaders will have on raising spirits and energy, but also on how these experiences have an impact on the cheerleaders themselves. It’s been such a treat to witness this firsthand for three years now, and every time it really blows me away.
As a sport psychology professional, I have learned quite a bit about the psychology of charitable cheerleading and performance thanks to my time with PCA. Here are some of my previous articles highlighting these lessons!
- Soliciting Donations, Interacting with Strangers, and Raising Money as a Measure of Sport Performance
- Finding the “Community” within the LGBTQ+ Community, and How They Are Helping Launch My Career in Sport Above and Beyond – A Retrospective Appreciation
- Sport and Performance: Building a Relationship with Your Audience
As I returned to Germany, I am more motivated myself coming out of this adventure with PCA, they have certainly raised my spirits, energy, and motivation as well. It’s been an amazing three years + one Gay Games with PCA so far and I am so excited about what’ll happen next!
Photo Credit: David “Dirk” Smith, M.Sc., SDL (He/Him)