Dear Cheerleading,

It is my freshman year in college, and I seem to continually go back and think about cheerleading quite often. Although it has only been a few months since I have been on the mat, I have kept every single lesson and memory I have learned with me. I remember when I was two years old and I did my first forward roll. From that day on everyone knew that my heart was forever set on cheerleading.

Thank you for teaching me to never give up. I feel like overall that's a lesson I truly learned from cheer. Whether it was competitive cheerleading or school cheerleading I was always pushed to my limits. From full-out routines back-to-back at practice to learning new skills, I learned to never give up. For the times I got elbowed or kicked in the face or the times when I could not land my tumbling pass after trying countless times, I just learned not to give up, because if I did give up, I would be letting myself down as well as my team.

Thank you for giving me, my second family. I remember getting excited about my competition season because I would always get to see my friends. These friends soon became my second family. We would spend so much time in the gym together and then turn around and spend the entire weekend at a competition halfway across the country.

My teammates and coaches son became the most supportive group of people in my life. They taught me to always keep my head up. There were so many times where I wanted to throw my pom poms in and call it a day, and there were other times where I never wanted to leave the eight-panel mat.

Thank you for teaching me that once something has your heart, it will always have your heart. I fell in love with cheerleading at the age of two and have loved it since then. When I was a freshman in high school I quit cheerleading. I dreaded my decision every day of my life until I started cheering again when I was a junior. Thank you for letting me escape the world, even if it was just for 2 minutes and 30 seconds. I spent countless hours on those 8 blue mats. Its like when I was practicing or performing I always forgot about everything else going on around me.

Thank you for giving me something that I love and something that makes me happy. Thank you for giving me incredible life-long friends from around the world that share the same passion and love as me. Thank you for teaching me how to spell, how to count, and how to smile even if I didn't want to. Thank you for the most amazing trips and the best times of my life. Thank you for making me the person I am today.

But most importantly, thank you for teaching me that when one door closes another one opens. With cheerleading, I learned that goodbyes don't always have to be hard. One day you'll wake up at 6:00 AM one last time to get ready. You'll perfect your ponytail, your poof, and your bow. You'll do your makeup better than you ever have before. And after that last competition, you'll refuse to take off your uniform. I had two very hard goodbyes to cheerleading.

My first was competition season, we ended up as state runner-ups. I knew I would never step foot on a blue mat to perform again. My next goodbye was to the Friday night lights. Those were my "glory days". Cheering on Fridays was everything to me. I remember when we lost our last game. It was the game before the state championship. The opposing team scored a touchdown one of the last seconds of the game.

We all knew we couldn't come back from that. I sat there and cried on the football field thinking about how I never wanted to take off my uniform or just wishing I could replay all the memories I had. But I couldn't. Flash-forward three months and there I was, coaching two-year-olds. I look at them and think that I was just like that when I was there age. Thank you cheerleading for who I am today.