How Far Are Athletes Willing to Go?


Many know that athletes are willing to do almost anything to improve in their designated sport. While most athletes demonstrate self-motivation, others are being forced by their coaches and teammates to improve. Cheerleaders across the nation are constantly being pushed past their limits by their coaches, begging the question: “How far is too far?”

One case in Denver East High School caught the attention of many after a cheerleader decided to make her situation public. Ally Wakefield recorded her and her teammates forcibly being pushed into a split position. The video posted by Wakefield depicted herself and seven other cheerleaders shouting in pain while being held down by their coach, Ozell Williams. Some clips even showed the girls begging Williams for relief. The video quickly spread, leaving the mothers of these girls and many others utterly furious.

The case of Ally Wakefield was not only morally wrong, but also detrimental to her health. Her mother reported that “doctors believe her daughter tore muscle tissue while doing the splits and might have pulled a hamstring.” A torn muscle recovery time depends on the severity of the injury. However, it is necessary for the muscle to be rested until the pain is no longer felt. During this recovery interval, the muscle will lose some of its flexibility, and the cheerleader is sent back to square one. A torn muscle also makes one more susceptible to future strains and other serious problems, such as loss of movement in the leg.

While most of the feedback to the video has been supportive towards Wakefield and her friends, there are some that agree with Williams’ coaching style. A cheerleader on the Quartz Hill team, who preferred to remain anonymous, believes that being pressured by coaches is necessary in order for one to improve his or her technique. The cheerleader, who has been in multiple dance and tumbling classes, has confidence that “most coaches whether gymnastics, cheer, or dance, push girls to their limits especially with flexibility because it will better their overall performance with the sport.”

Although she has never experienced what the girls in the video had gone through, she is “willing to be pushed to the limit to become better.”

Girls enter cheer with the knowledge of how competitive the sport is. However, it is up to them to determine how far they are willing to push themselves to improve. Ally Wakefield and many other girls love the sport, but Wakefield’s passion isn’t strong enough for her to “ever go through that [pain] again.”