A New Jersey high school recently caused quite the controversy when it announced a new rule that allows all students who try out for cheerleading to make the squad. The school argued that it was implemented to make cheerleading more inclusive, but the rule has left many people divided.
As a former cheerleader, this story caught my eye. I was a four-year member of the varsity cheerleading squad at my high school, and I was a captain two of those years. However, I was not “given” a spot on the squad; I earned it. I put in hours of practice every week when I was on my JV and varsity squads in middle school. Before that, I took motion and dance classes and participated in cheerleading camps every summer from the time I was about 5 years old. As a result, making my high school’s varsity cheerleading squad was a culmination of years of hard work, time and dedication.
When I heard about what happened in New Jersey, I felt for the girls (and guys, too!) who had spent years practicing and perfecting their skills to make their high school’s squad. When you are dedicated to something, whether it’s a sport, academics, art or music, it’s disappointing and frustrating to see people who put in minimal, if any, effort get the same reward. While I am all for giving everyone an equal and fair chance, I think the “everyone makes the team” rule is teaching the wrong lesson.
You aren’t always going to get what you what in life, and this is something you learn by putting yourself out there and failing or getting rejected. While cheerleading was something I was always successful at, I have failed or got rejected from numerous other things in my life. I ran for student council in middle school and lost. In high school, I applied to be a peer minister, but I didn’t get selected. I didn’t get a communications job with the athletic department at UNC that I applied for when I was a first-year. Even more recently, I sent out countless emails and applications for summer internships, only to be rejected or told that they didn’t have a position for me. I could honestly go on for hours! But the important thing here is what I learned from these experiences.
While I was disappointed in every situation I mentioned, each experience provided me with many important lessons. First, you aren’t always going to succeed at everything. Failure, in some way, is inevitable for everyone. It can be a hard idea to grasp, but I promise, it’s the truth.
However, failure isn’t something to fear. Instead, we must use failure to push ourselves to stay focused on our goals and work harder. This might mean practicing more, getting involved with other activities, building your resume or even sending out a few more emails. While this process takes time, determination and persistence are crucial for later success. Finally, don’t be afraid to try again. There’s no shame in trying out again or applying again. In fact, I think this speaks volumes about a person’s character and attitude.
Accepting a failure or rejection and working hard to improve shows that you care and that you are willing to put forth your best effort. In addition, I can promise you that, in some way or another, your hard work will pay off.
In regards to my own experiences with failure, I’ve found plenty of success after rejection. I kept applying for summer internships, and guess what? I finally got one! And that communications job in the athletic department? I took more journalism classes, applied (and was accepted) to the sports communication program, started working for the football team, and even got involved with line monitoring at UNC basketball games. With all of these new experiences under my belt, I applied again and went to another interview about a month ago. I received an offer for the 2018-19 school year just the other day. While the initial rejection hurts, the feeling you get when your hard work finally pays off is so worth it. And the lessons you learn from failure stick with you and help you overcome the next obstacle that gets in your way.
So to the high school in New Jersey, I urge you to stick with a proper try-out. Be fair and take only the best cheerleaders for your squad. Some students may get rejected, and they’ll probably be upset, but stand firm. Encourage them to keep practicing and even try out again next year, but don’t just hand them a spot on the squad. Make them earn it. It will not only make them better cheerleaders, but it will also teach them some valuable lessons about hard work and persistence that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.
If you still aren’t convinced, I leave you with one of my favorite quotes. Michael Jordan, arguably one of the best basketball players ever*, once said,
"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."
*I use this phrase to avoid any M.J. vs. LeBron debates. They're both awesome athletes, but, just to disclose my opinion, M.J. will always be the G.O.A.T. because #goheels!