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Nerves took over my body as I stood on the edge of the mat preparing to perform. Not only was I new to the competition cheerleading team, but I was also new to being a flyer, the person that gets thrown in the air during stunts. As I waited patiently for the announcers to call us to the floor, I reviewed the stunt sequence in my head, hoping my thoughts would become actions when it was time. Twist up, hitch, liberty, suspended forward roll. If I fell out of the stunt, the entire team would suffer, but despite my nerves, a smile remained on my face.
“South Plainfield, you may take the floor,” the lady announced. My heart was beating out of my chest.
I scurried to my beginning position and waited for the music to begin. This feels like an eternity, I thought to myself.
The music finally began. I couldn’t think about anything except for ‘twist up, hitch, liberty, suspended forward roll.’
“Stay tight, Ashley!” I could hear my coach on the sidelines.
My group set for the stunt. I squeezed every inch of my body as tight as I could in hopes that I would not fall. Five, six, seven, eight. I hit the twist up and hitch without falling, but could not stay sturdy as we switched over to the liberty. I fell out of the stunt, so my group couldn’t finish the rest of our sequence. I was so disappointed, but there was no choice but to compose myself and continue the routine. When it was over, the other girls recognized my disappointment and tried to comfort me.
“It’s not just your fault,” they said, but I ignored them. We ended up coming in eleventh place out of eleven teams and, naturally, I blamed myself.
We watched our film at the next practice. When I found out that I wasn’t the only flyer that fell out of her stunt, I felt a little better. However, I was still disappointed with myself. My lack of ability to fly made me extremely dislike the activity.
My negative thoughts began to further attenuate my ability to succeed. It didn’t help that I was being bullied by another girl on the team. She was my base and whenever I would fall, she would get frustrated and instead of keeping it to herself, she took her anger out on me. Her backbiting was counterproductive to our group’s success.
“Don’t point your toes, Ashley!” she yelled.
“You try flying!” I wanted to scream back, but instead I composed myself and set for the stunt once again without saying a word. She was the one that caught me, so if I was mean to her, I could end up on the floor.
One day at practice, my coach decided to put the bullying to a stop and switch the girl out of my stunt group. That same day, I was working on my suspended forward roll, which is a dismount in which the flyer does a front flip and lands on her feet, with the help of the three bases below her. With a lot on my mind, I flipped too early and instead of landing on my feet, I fell flat on my face. Luckily, we were stunting on mats, but when falling from six feet in the air, they seemed more like blue concrete sidewalks. From my premature action, I managed to cut my lip and injure my knee.
My coach could see the frustration in my eyes and followed me as I limped my way toward the door. “What happened there?” she asked.
“I fell,” I answered, irritated. I knew it was an obvious answer, but in my state of annoyance, her question seemed completely unnecessary.
“Well, I can see that,” she answered, “are you hurt?”
“My knee and my lip.”
“I’ll get ice.”
I sat down in the hallway outside of the gymnasium where we practiced. When she got back, I was crying. “I can’t do it anymore,” I said.
Coach Cosenza handed me the ice. “A positive mindset will lead to positive results,” she said and walked back into the gym. I could tell she was let down by the fact that I was giving up.
Because of my injured knee, I couldn’t go back to practicing that day, so I spent the rest of my time thinking about what she had said to me. Suddenly, her words seemed to click a switch on in my head. I soon realized that all I needed to do was believe in myself and I could accomplish my goals.
My nerves did not subside at the next competition. However, I went out on the floor believing in myself. The constant repetition of ‘I can do this’ was all I needed to succeed. At the Asbury Park competition, I did not fall out of any of my stunts, but my team still did not surpass the others. Although we did not succeed as a team, I was still proud because I succeeded as an individual.
The lesson my coach taught me is one that I can apply to many aspects in my life. I now know that one can achieve anything that they put their mind to and I will no longer settle for easy. I plan to continue my positive thinking, even if the situation I am placed in is not favorable because, let’s face it, if you don’t believe in yourself, who will?