A long time ago at a junior high far far away I was a cheerleader.
To my recollection, participating in cheer was not my parents’ fave choice of mine (they were bigger fans of my clarinet playing talents).
And, to be candid, I don’t remember it being a favorite choice of mine either.
It was fun, it was fine, I moved on to different activities after one season (drill team among other eclectic pursuits).
I vaguely recall boisterous bus rides to away games. I have a few memories of pyramids and sleepovers. I clearly remember how, when we needed a parent-coach or there wouldn’t be a squad, my friend Lauren’s mom agreed to fill the position.
Spoiler alert: We took Lauren’s mom for granted.
Commitment not involvement is key.
I had no intention of getting involved in the Child’s cheer’perience. The morning of sign-ups the Husband & I told her about our separation. She was excruciatingly sad. I was extraordinarily not myself. She and I attended the meeting and cried off & on throughout. Post-session they informed us 14 girls signed up and nary a mom had stepped forward to coach. No coach. No squad.
Guess which red-eyed Mama concluded she knew little but loved her kid a lot? I agreed to coach, but in my mind I agreed to be involved.
Plan, show up, be physically present, depart, repeat.
To my chagrin (initially anyway), the first squad meeting made it clear, in order to be successful, I’d need to be fully committed.
From boot camp to practice. From competition to daily lives. If the goal was girls who performed as a unit then I’d need to be ham and not eggs.
I’d need not to coach because no one else had time.
I’d need to coach because I was all-in-loved-the-girls-planned-to-leave-it-all-on-the-field-no-matter-what-was-happening-in-my-noncoaching-life committed.
Tween girls do not mean drama.
I braced for in-fighting and gossip (admittedly I’ve seen too many teen-cheer movies). From our first group ice breaker to final competition day the 14 were unflaggingly supportive of each other. Not only did new friendships evidence themselves on the field–they blossomed off-turf, too. The girls supported and encouraged each other during school and other extra-curricular activities.
Admittedly this girl squad connection was both good and bad. The 14 chatted a LOT when together (cue shouts of 1, 2, 3! EYES ON ME!), but I happily handled that versus dealing with bullying or girl-drama.
When you’re lost a smile shifts everything.
On some level I’d already known this. On all levels I’d fleetingly forgotten.
Bigger than fake it till you make it and more important than what Annie says me coaching cheer (& spending time with 14 confident, self-possessed girls) taught me a lesson I needed to relearn. Whether sideline cheers, halftime dancing or navigating life 2.0 (aka newly separated mama) a smile changes everything.
I adored watching the Child perform. The child, given the fact it’s her first season, was definitely not the best on squad. The child, however, was one of the biggest smilers in the group. Frequently lost, sporadically stumped, consistently dimple-flashing, everything shifted.
If you bounce back people forget your fall.
Prior to coaching I’d not heard the word stunting used other than as an indication of stoppage of growth. The 14 used this term repeatedly throughout each meeting and practice. Stunting was a prime focus for them and two syllables which stuck terror into the heart of CoachMama.
I had no clue how to teach/execute stunts (we summoned an expert for initial instruction).
I saw how, even with their massive amounts of enthusiasm, stunting was not the squad’s strong suit.
I witnessed how any time a cheerleader faltered or fell she immediately bounced back and tried again.
Inside gym for practices. Outside school in small group sessions. On the field at half-time. The girls stunted, wobbled, bounced back, continued. They fell down seven times and got up eight.
At season’s culmination (unlike the tween movies) stunting still was not our biggest strength. In the end, however, all any of us remembered/saw was how swiftly the squad all rebounded.
In the end, as with all good stories but not always in life, I enjoyed coaching and learned more from the the girls than they did from me.
Would I do it again? Probably.
Will the Child do it again? I have no idea.
Am I reminded daily of lessons learned from the not-yet-teens as I struggle to navigate my new life? ABSOLUTELY.
- Have you discovered we underestimate the wisdom and maturity of our kids?
- When was the last time you found yourself an almost-accidental-volunteer?