“What happens if you get blood on the mat?” I asked Coach Heather, a few hours before our competition. She must not have heard me because I never received an answer. I was extremely nervous because MacKenzie, my flyer, was asked by our coaches to do a twist cradle, even though she had never successfully completed one. Halfway through our routine, it was time for MacKenzie’s twist. She made it all the way around for the first time, although she nicked my nose with her elbow. I rushed to the front to jump onto Sam’s shoulders and kept smiling because I was directly in front of the judges. I glimpsed over at my coaches and saw horrified faces staring back at me. I was confused and looked down, only to discover blood pouring from my face, onto the white of my uniform, and into Sam’s hair.Since I’ve been trained to never stop, I kept going until a judge announces, “The Morgan School please exit the mat.” After the staff disinfects the mat, my team would have to finish without me, while I was sent to the hospital. Cheerleaders are taught to always smile, despite how nervous or how much pain; we must keep going. I had broken my nose and still have a chipped bone to this day. Smiling through an injury is easier than smiling through those who ridicule cheerleading.
“It’s not a sport,” yells a player on the football team.
“You do not even do anything,” mumbles a fellow classmate.
“You are in my way,” snaps a fan in the crowd.
When I cheer, I tend to block out the insults and focus on the younger children. At sporting events, from across the gym or in the crowd, I see little girls, imitating our moves. Sometimes, they will shout back “Let’s go blue and white!” Over the summer, we have cheerleading camps for little girls to teach them the basics. Throughout the week, the little ones follow me around watching my every move. Constantly they are hanging onto my legs, hugging me, or shouting “lift me in the air!” At the end of the week, we put on a show for their parents to demonstrate what they have learned. The bright smiling faces radiating back to their parents are symbols of the accomplishment we fulfilled. I enjoy giving back to the youth of our community as well as spending time becoming acquainted with the energetic future cheerleaders.
A broken nose may heal, rude comments will be forgotten, but encouraging little girls to discover their passion is priceless. As a girl with frequent insecurity, cheerleading has taught me how to persevere. I used to hate the way I looked, but with all of the conditioning we do, I have gained muscle and slimmed down to fit into the tight uniforms. When I am a part of the squad, my fears go away because I know that if we mess up, we mess up as a team, not as an individual. As a result, cheerleading has helped me gain confidence in my everyday life and provided me with the strength to not worry about what other people think.The only opinion that matters is my own. I have also learned to remain positive and smile, despite the flying elbows, broken noses, and occasional insults. I have been instilled with teamwork, confidence and perseverance which I’m certain will help me overcome future life challenges.