Never in a million years did I imagine that I would become a cheerleader. A soccer player? Maybe. A swimmer? I wasn't really that good, but sure. I even thought that horseback riding was pretty cool; however, one thing I did not think was cool is cheerleading. I am not a "ready? Okay!" girl and I prefer my ponytails un-teased, thank you. Don't even get me started on the pom poms and questionable makeup. Really, I just never thought it would be my thing. Until it was, and suddenly, cheer became a part of my life that I will cherish forever.
I was so afraid to start cheer. I had no idea what I was getting in to. It was the first sport that I ever tried and I was terrified. What would the coaches think of me? Me, an 11th grader with no real experience save the times my best friend would teach me cheers and jumps. A girl who was not normal; one who would need a little more help learning the sequences and dances and the technique. I wasn't even sure if there were any rules against me even trying out for the team. Surely there would be. But there weren't, and the only thing I had to worry about was the coaches and what they thought of me. Comforting.
As a legally blind girl, let me just say that cheerleading is not easy. For a somewhat in-shape teenager, let me just say that cheerleading is really hard. It is a complex, hands-on sport. You always have to be ready to react whether it be to catch a person or to throw them into the air properly. When I first started doing cheer, I didn't know all of that. I did not know how hard it would be to make sure you have someone's foot in a proper grip and keep perfect time with a group of people to get them into the air. And because I did not know any of those things, I had to learn. And keep learning because everything is very visual so it took me a little longer to understand. That was just the tryouts.
I did make the team. Correction, I was an alternate for the team. Someone who the coaches thought needed a little more work to compete on mat with the rest of the team. But someone who they thought had promise. At first, I did not see it like that and I was crushed. I beat myself up over it and thought about how stupid I was for continuing. But as I kept going to practices, I just could not stop. There was something about the people, the atmosphere, the challenge and drive to do better, that kept me from leaving. There was a thrill I would get by just watching my team accomplish something new. A new part of a stunt, a new tumbling pass, a successful run-through. And, even though I was not an active part of all of these things, I felt like there was a place for me too.
In the winter season of my Junior year (my second season), I made the JV team! I would get to compete this time. though, that was not much easier. Now, I had a whole team counting on me to get it all right. Not daunting at all. The thing was, everyone on the team was so supportive. Every time I did something new, they would tell me how proud they were of me they were and how good I was doing; they would cheer me on. Sometimes I wondered if they were only doing it to humor me or make me feel better. But then I would see them do the same thing for others--I did it too--and I was positive that they meant it. They were really just that supportive. They wanted us to succeed and keep improving.
Joining cheer was one of the best things I have ever done. I have learned so much, least of which is how to actually cheer. I have learned how to be there for other people as they learn new things; how to support and encourage them as they do. I was not the only one who needed help. Everyone has different strengths and weaknesses, everyone learns things at their own pace. I have also learned that my visual impairment should not keep me from trying new things like cheer. All I ever did when I considered quitting because of it was let it hold me back. As important as it is to recognize that there are things (I.E. driving) that are just not safe for me to legally do. yet. There are also so many things that I should be able to do. Cheering is one of those things.
It is always important to know your limits; what can you logically not do. However, it is also important to test yourself and push those limits. What do you want to do and what can you do to achieve that? Don't just say that you can't do something just because you don't think you can or that you should. Life is a series of obstacles and tests. Babies only know they can walk whe nthey try for the first time. They will probably fall for a bit, but that does not stop them from learning just so they can get into things on higher shelves and cause their parents immense stress.
I continued cheering for the rest of my high school career. Sadly, that meant only two more seasons. But in those seasons, I learned so much more. Sure, I learned higher tumbling passes and new stunting skills; I got sharper movements and better jumps. But I also got experiences that I would never have gotten otherwise. I got to be an inspiration and a promise; no matter who you are or what issues you may be facing, you can get past it. You do not have to be perfect, you don't have to always know what you are doing. All you have to do is your best and try to do better from there.
So the moral of the story is to just be a baby and try new things. See what works and what doesn't. Do not just give up after one time, and don't give up after not trying at all. If you can do that, there will be someone to cheer you on whether you know it or not.