Cheerleading Shaped My Life

Cheerleading Shaped My Life

It really is more than just a sport.

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When I was in elementary school, I started cheering for the local youth football team. I always told other girls "yeah I'm a cheerleader," thinking it was the coolest thing ever. Cheerleading back then was simply fun. You did not really need to know the proper technique or tumbling skills. It was the most fun when your best friends were on your team.

You did not all need to match hairstyles, white socks, and no nail polish. It really was all just fun to cheer on the boys that were in your grade. The most fun was going to the high school football games on Friday nights with your friends, the girls in their cheer uniform and the boys in their football jerseys. How times have changed.

When I was in fourth grade, that's when I started to cheer at the competitive level. I only did it for one year until my senior year of high school. I learned basic tumbling during that time that carried over in my middle and high school years. When I was in sixth grade, I tried out for the seventh-grade cheer team and I thought the world would be over if I didn't make it. I made it for both football and basketball season. I tried out the next year and made it again.

In eighth grade, my one friend and I took turns calling cheers every game and would do standing back handsprings in our hello cheer. I would've called us the captains, but it wasn't really that important to us back then. It honestly was just us doing what we loved. High school came around and I was more than nervous to try out for the team. I knew that summer practices for middle schoolers were hard, what would they be like in high school? I made the team and went through a long summer of practice. I was scared of all of the seniors that year as they all tumbled and had high jumps.

We went to tumbling as a team every Monday and it was the best part about being in cheer. Tumbling is so much fun and a great work out as you're using all parts of your body. My sophomore year came, and it was my first year as a varsity cheerleader, so the expectations were much higher. My jumps had to be higher and my tumbling had to be better and cleaner than it was before. I was then on JV for basketball to make the teams even but that didn't stop me from wanting to progress. We started tumbling at a new gym during my junior year, which I was unsure of. I can never thank my coach, Kara, enough for that change. I learned more in my one year there than I did in the other 2 years at the other gym.

I was quickly learning new skills and strengthening myself. I was on varsity all of my junior and senior years. My senior year as a cheerleader was easily the best year in all the six that I was a cheerleader. As a senior, you are the captain. There were four seniors, so we all were considered captains, and our coach would argue that we were leaders. Not only during a game but in practice and just in general, we were always making sure that the younger girls knew how to behave and act. When you are part of a team, you are always representing that team wherever you go.

As well as a successful senior year of cheerleading at school, the coaches of the gym, Mark and Kara, urged me to try out for their all-star team in May before my senior year started. I was even more unsure of that because I only would be able to be on that team for one year and I did not know anyone. I went out on a limb and thought things wouldn't be so bad if I cheered all-star, so I tried out. To my surprise, I made their level three senior team and I could not have been happier. I quickly became a leader on that team because I was a senior and had a great outlook on cheerleading. Each practice was a chance to be better than the last and that's what I tried to instill in the young girls on my team.

The season quickly came to an end and I cried every single day leading up to my graduation, which marked the end of the cheer season. My coaches and all of my teammates wrote letters to me that I still have to this day. I occasionally read them when I'm in my feels. They all basically said how happy they were that they got to spend one year with me and how my leadership helped us reach our goal at the end of the season, going to The Summit.

Without cheer, I would not be as strong as I am today. It put me in the best shape of my life. It showed me time management with being on an all-star team forty-five minutes away from home and being a leader on my school cheer team. I made relationships with my coaches and teammates that I still have to this day. I will cherish my time as a cheerleader for the rest of my life. And if anyone wants to argue, cheerleading IS a sport. Don't "@" me. Sit in on a practice and a competition then tell me it's not a sport.

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The Coach That Killed My Passion

An open letter to the coach that made me hate a sport I once loved.
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I fell in love with the game in second grade. I lived for every practice and every game. I lived for the countless hours in the gym or my driveway perfecting every shot, every pass and every move I could think of. Every night after dinner, I would go shoot and would not allow myself to go inside until I hit a hundred shots. I had a desire to play, to get better and to be the best basketball player I could possibly be.

I had many coaches between church leagues, rec leagues, personal coaches, basketball camps, middle school and high school. Most of the coaches I had the opportunity to play for had a passion for the game like I did. They inspired me to never stop working. They would tell me I had a natural ability. I took pride in knowing that I worked hard and I took pride in the compliments that I got from my coaches and other parents. I always looked forward to the drills and, believe it or not, I even looked forward to the running. These coaches had a desire to teach, and I had a desire to learn through every good and bad thing that happened during many seasons. Thank you to the coaches that coached and supported me through the years.

SEE ALSO: My Regrets From My Time As A College Softball Player

Along with the good coaches, are a few bad coaches. These are the coaches that focused on favorites instead of the good of the entire team. I had coaches that no matter how hard I worked, it would never be good enough for them. I had coaches that would take insults too far on the court and in the classroom.

I had coaches that killed my passion and love for the game of basketball.

When a passion dies, it is quite possibly the most heartbreaking thing ever. A desire you once had to play every second of the day is gone; it turns into dreading every practice and game. It turns into leaving every game with earphones in so other parents don't talk to you about it. It meant dreading school the next day due to everyone talking about the previous game. My passion was destroyed when a coach looked at me in the eyes and said, "You could go to any other school and start varsity, but you just can't play for me."

SEE ALSO: Should College Athletes Be Limited To One Sport?

Looking back now at the amount of tears shed after practices and games, I just want to say to this coach: Making me feel bad about myself doesn't make me want to play and work hard for you, whether in the classroom or on the court. Telling me that, "Hard work always pays off" and not keeping that word doesn't make me want to work hard either. I spent every minute of the day focusing on making sure you didn't see the pain that I felt, and all of my energy was put towards that fake smile when I said I was OK with how you treated me. There are not words for the feeling I got when parents of teammates asked why I didn't play more or why I got pulled after one mistake; I simply didn't have an answer. The way you made me feel about myself and my ability to play ball made me hate myself; not only did you make me doubt my ability to play, you turned my teammates against me to where they didn't trust my abilities. I would not wish the pain you caused me on my greatest enemy. I pray that one day, eventually, when all of your players quit coming back that you realize that it isn't all about winning records. It’s about the players. You can have winning records without a good coach if you have a good team, but you won’t have a team if you can't treat players with the respect they deserve.

SEE ALSO: To The Little Girl Picking Up A Basketball For The First Time


Cover Image Credit: Equality Charter School

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Dear Oklahoma, Please Take Care Of Jalen Hurts

He's one of the good ones, we promise.

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Dear Oklahoma fans, coaches, and players, please take care of Jalen Hurts.

When Hurts graduated in December of 2018, everyone in the Alabama fanbase knew that a transfer was coming soon. After showing his distinct character and loyalty to the Alabama Crimson Tide by choosing to play the 2018 season, even though he would be second in line to Tua Tagavailoa, Hurts deserves this chance to make the best decision for himself. The selection process regarding where Hurts would end up this upcoming season was kept relatively private, which of course open the doors to countless predictions from fans and analysts.

However, I can confidently say that I was not the only one shocked at his choice, but I whole-heartedly support it.

Home to two Heisman-winning quarterbacks, Oklahoma is a more than a smart choice on Hurts' behalf. Within that program, he will be given ample opportunity to improve his craft in order to put himself in the best position for a successful career post-college. The Sooners obviously have an incredible program that leads players down the best paths to be as successful as possible, and that is all Alabama fans want for our beloved quarterback.

With all this being said, I, as an Alabama fan, just ask the Oklahoma Sooners to take care of Jalen and realize how special of a player he is.

With Hurts at quarterback, you will never have to question his effort or loyalty to his teammates. He will always carry himself with grace, no matter the situation. If you give him an opportunity to succeed, he will put forth all of his effort in order to take advantage of it.

Jalen Hurts is one of the most special players, and young men, to ever wear an Alabama Crimson Tide uniform. All that we ask is that you support him as we have these past three years.

Roll Tide.

Sincerely,

Every Alabama Fan

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