What is the big deal about saving seats?

Before my first cheer competition, a more experienced cheer mom (okay it’s Rhonda) told me about saving seats.  We were sitting at practice waiting, a few days before the first competition of the season.  It was, I thought, a very strange conversation.  “You’ll have to be sure someone stays with our seats when we go to the floor to watch up close, otherwise other teams will come in and just move your stuff and take the seat,” she said.

You can sum up everything about cheer leading by the fact that some people are fanatical about saving seats.  The same enthusiasm for cheer leading is reflected in the zealous nature fans go about claiming their territorial position at the competition. 

This went against any common courtesy I had ever imagined when it came to “saving a seat.”  And why on earth was the real estate at a cheer venue so valuable?

“I learned this the first time I watched my daughter cheer,” Rhonda went on to explain, “I couldn’t believe how people will just pick up your stuff and move it if you aren’t sitting there. Just move it even a few rows away to make enough room for their group.”

Upon arriving at the venue the following weekend I could see what she was talking about.  All of the prime seats were covered with one personal item or another: blankets, cheer bags, pillows, jackets, warm ups… and people were camped out at the end of each row like guardians, marking spots for the rest of their teammates who had yet to arrive.  All the families who arrived too late to get “designated seating” were left to fend for themselves.

Many times by late morning and into the afternoon parents and cheerleaders would find themselves stuck sitting in a section surrounded by a different team.  A splash of red in a sea of purple.  Overwhelmed and surrounded by screams, cheers and even an occasional air horn from the “competition” when the purple team is on the mat.  And the lonely fan, sits there, as if on the wrong side of the football stadium. A bit uncomfortable, hoping for a spot to open up near their teammates.

I was at my first NCA (Dallas) when I first heard the announcement, “You may not save seats, saving seats is not allowed.” Funny,  I thought as I looked around the room at all the people coveting the seats nearest them in anticipation of a teammate’s arrival.  So I guess that means that if all the seats are “saved” without a physical person in them you can just move stuff over and sit down…

Why does that seem so difficult to do?
And why are some so brazen that they do so?

Is the saving of seats really related to some other deep fear that there won’t be enough? Could be, because there are plenty of times at larger events there clearly isn’t enough.  Plus, in most venues some seats are positioned worse than others, you’ll only see the side view of the pyramid and not the full effect of the front view.  So maybe it’s more about fairness.  Is it fair to monopolize the prime view when your team is only on the mat 2.5 minutes out of the entire day?

Funny, the indignation experienced when you return to your chair and find your things have been moved.  You know where you were sitting, that seat on the aisle just off of the center section, high enough to see over the judges and get good photos…. you look and find your things have been moved and someone else is there. You’re like, ‘Who would do such a thing?’”

“Who would do such a thing?”  The real question is, who goes around thinking that they can save every seat in the section for their team? And aren’t we trying to teach these kids kindness and fairness in competition and life? How is this whole seat saving thing kind or fair?

The next season started and already I was thinking of the inevitable “get there early and save a seat” situation.  I guess it says something that I stopped playing that game.  I enjoy my daughter’s competition from wherever I choose to sit and if other moms want to sit there too that’s great, we’ll take turns watching each other’s stuff for restroom breaks or jaunts to the concession stands.  But if I get up to leave and my seat isn’t there when I get back, so be it.

Some other parents are completely the opposite.
Yes we’re all about team spirit but “Everyone’s doing it.”

Is it a bit hypocritical to be participating in something that has the undertones of being unfair and “not right” while pushing our athletes to be the epitome of “good sports” no matter what place they get?  Congratulate the winners, be kind to the losers.  Perhaps.

But if you know and respect the policy (no saving seats) then you’ll understand when someone comes along and moves your stuff to take  your seat.  Just don’t make a fuss.  Wish them (and their team) well and hope that they enjoy the seat as much as you did. Sometimes easier said than done.  

I was at yet another NCA competition and this time, I was not feeling well at all (how is it you can get sick at the worst possible times?).  I spied an empty chair near the back where I thought I could rest just a moment before the current routine was complete, thus allowing other chairs to open up.

So I sat.  I had been there less than 10 seconds and a teenage cheerleader looked a me and said, “My mom’s sitting there.”  I looked around, no mom in sight.  “I’ll just be here a moment, I’ll get up when she returns.” I said.  But this cheerleader continued, “You can’t sit there, my mom is sitting there.”  It was then I noticed she had the same t shirt I was wearing.  We were from the same gym.  “We’re on the same team,” I said, “I’ll move when your mom gets here.”

Her mom returned and I got up to leave but not before the cheerleader told her mom that I refused to leave the seat and I got an incredibly nasty look from the mom.

Really? Is this what we’ve come to?
The real question is, do you respect the seat saving or do you let someone sit for a moment or two. Let them take their photos and enjoy their 2.5 minutes of pride and joy?  Maybe the person saving the seat will be nice about it.

But maybe not.

That person probably got to the venue at 7:30 am sharp to save that chair!!!

And imagine the travesty of someone, maybe you, sitting in it!!!!!!

Worse yet, moving someone’s bag to sit! OMG!!!

It’s just a seat.  A place to park your hind end so you don’t have to stand all day. And while the above story is true, please take this in the (somewhat sarcastic) tone it was intended.  We all get a little too wound up when it comes to watching competitive cheer.  Remember the example your setting, sit back and take a breath, enjoy the moment.  It certainly won’t last long and the time will be gone before you know it.