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I can do this...

“I can do this,” I said to myself as I looked across the gym filled with girls from elementary through high school. I noticed something about all of them compared to me – they all, every last girl, had on real cheerleading shoes, soffe cheer shorts (remember those), and some sort of cheer-looking shirt. I looked down at my shoes and my umbro (remember those back in the day) shorts. I also was wearing a non-cheerleading related shirt as well. As a high school junior trying out for cheerleading for senior year, I had no cheerleading experience. I was on a gymnastics team and had taken ballet for several years. I was the girl who made fun of cheerleaders but always wanted to be one, for sake of the challenge of the sport. By the way, it is a sport; don’t challenge me on that. I get extremely defensive!

I had just injured my knee, preventing me from dancing my last high school ballet recital on pointe. Every time I tried to throw a back-handspring, my knee injury caused me to fall on my head. Going into tryouts, I knew this was a possibility. I was determined. Listening to the gym full of us repeating the cheer we would use to try out, I knew I wanted it more than anything at the time.

On the day of tryouts, I showed up, nervous beyond imagination. I felt sick as I waited outside the gym doors for my number to come up. We entered the gym four at a time. I tried out with girls who already knew the judges from the local all-star gym. Nonetheless, I knew I could do it. I asked the judges if I could try out skills in reverse order and cheer, dance, and jump before tumbling, as I knew if I tumbled, I would probably fall, and I would not be able to walk after it. I was not allowed to tryout in a different order, so I had to tumble after reciting the cheer. I went for it anyway, and, just as I thought, twisting my injured knee caused me to not complete the tumbling pass and after I threw myself backwards, I could not land that back-handspring. I had to be helped up and I could not walk to finish the tryout. I did not get points for the other elements like jumps or the dance.

Frustrated, I waited a day for the sacred papers to be posted of who made girls varsity and who made boys varsity. As a rising senior, I vowed I would not cheer unless I made boys varisty with the rest of the girls my age. I went to check the door with the list, and I found my name! I read it again…and again…girls varsity. There must be some mistake! I can do this. I ran to my mom’s van I was driving full of tears and disappointment. I literally cried for four days. My choice was simple. Cheer with freshman or not cheer at all. Neither was what I had envisioned. I wanted that uniform so badly. My biology teacher, who had been there, talked to my mom and encouraged me to cheer girls varsity anyway. The girls and leader in my small group at church encouraged me to cheer anyway. I decided to suck it up and cheer anyway. It happened that every other girl on the team was a freshman, except for one sophomore…and me, a senior. Woohoo with sarcasm. I had a great coach, though, and avoided many politics, as the girls on boys varsity were mainly all-star team members who were coached at school by their all-star coaches at their gym. I would have been eaten alive in that shark tank.

Since none of us on the girls varsity team were that experienced, I received the opportunity to learn, which I would not have received on the other team. I learned to stunt as a flyer and loved every second. Game days were tough. I was in senior classes with senior cheerleaders wearing their uniform and I walked around school in the same uniform as the freshmen. Quite humbling, I must say. I perfected some tumbling, learned to fly, and learned cheerleading basics. Through the year, I was determined I wanted to cheer in college. Living in Lexington, Kentucky at the time, everybody knows University of Kentucky cheerleading is a legend. UK cheerleaders taught our gymnastics classes and I participate in open gyms led by them. I took private lessons with a guy from UK in preparation for college tryouts in the spring. I loved every second of it.

College tryouts came and I took my passion and hard work to three colleges. I made all three, and looking for God’s direction, that did not help make the decision easier. I ended up getting the most scholarship money at University of the Cumberlands in the beautiful Appalachian mountains. I worked with an excellent stunt partner I competed with throughout my freshman year and his senior year. We actually placed third in the nation in a college co-ed partner stunt competition and first in our conference!

I am the kind of person who likes stories and wants the bottom line – the main point. We have chatted about transitions, choosing paths, and making changes. Even when it seems life is not going the way we would prefer, we do not know what God is doing. In this aspect of my life, it was just a sport. To me, it was a huge deal. If I had not made girls varsity and felt embarrassed, I would not have had the opportunities I had to learn to fly. I probably would have just floated around the team in the background since all the other girls knew more skills than I did. I have been able to use that girls varsity experience to learn the sport, to compete in college, and to use it as ministry through Centri-Kid camp as a staffer and a coach in public and private schools. God’s plans for us are great! Stay faithful to your Father even when it seems life does not make sense. Life does not always turn out like this, and sometimes God turns our lives in completely different directions than where we thought we were headed. Know He loves you and is watching out for you, His child. Talk to God, be honest and open because He will give you wisdom (James 1:5). Have a fantastic week!



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