The Switch

January 28, 2010
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From before I could even remember, gymnastics was my entire life. Gymnastics was all I knew, and I loved it. Spending all my time at the gym tumbling and hanging out with my friends was all I ever needed. I went to school, but I only hung out with my gymnastics friends. Growing up in such a tightly knit clique gave me a small outlook on the world. Our clique was very selective, and if you weren’t in it, you weren’t our friends. I didn’t need to make other friends anywhere else. anyway, I had my group and nothing could ever change that. I was never friendly to other children that weren’t gymnasts, and I had a bad attitude if you tried to tell me otherwise. Little did I know that this would all soon stop due to a bad injury and my safety net of friends would come crashing down. I would have to start all over and in the end it would change my attitude and my shape the rest of my life.
I was on the eleven year-olds’ Red Hot competition team, and it was our last practice before our first competition in the season. It was my turn to practice and I stood in front, self confident in my abilities of perfection. The chalky air surrounded me as I whiffed in the smell of new gym equipment and hard work. I stood on the edge of the blue mats and waited for my routine music to start. All around me were girls working hard on the bars, beam, floor and vault. My red leotard sparkled around my sweaty body as I waited for my music to start. Coach’s eyes stared and I began my routine. I did the salute and started to tumble. Round off, back handspring, back handspring step out, pirouette handstand forward roll into splits as I practiced my routine.
“You can do it! You have this down!” Thoughts ran through my head. It came down to my ending tumbling pass, and right as I landed my back-tuck, I slipped, heard a crack and went tumbling down. I laid on the cold ground floor as kids and coaches rushed to get ice and other medical supplies as I stayed there screaming in pain. Pain flooded my body. I was rushed to the emergency room, and after 6 hours I left, a hard pink plastered cast covering the bottom half of my left leg. For the next 12 weeks I stayed immobile in my cast. Crutches and wheelchairs where my only hope for moving and the doctors said they didn’t know if it would heal correctly. I hated being hurt! All the days where I had to depend on other people to do stuff for me, I hated the idea of being helpless and lazy. I couldn’t wait to get the cast off even though it led to me quitting the thing I love and starting all over. I spent many doctors’ appointments in tears as they told me I would have to quit gymnastics.
“Gymnastics is too hard on your body, Blakely,” the doctor stated. “It will ruin your ankle even more if you go back, we’re talking immobility for a much longer span of time if that happens. Let’s choose something with common interest as gymnastics, but not as difficult to the body. Hmmm, like Cheerleading?”
“Cheerleading?” I smirked. Although I was only nine, I knew the hatred between cheerleaders and gymnasts. I had never known why but the two sports hated each other. We both had different styles of tumbling and putting on a routine, and since I had been little, I had always heard the older girls talking about how gymnastics was better. I was frustrated, agitated and annoyed; I couldn’t stand the idea of switching to cheerleading. There was no way this crazy doctor was going to get me to do cheerleading.
“I think it’s your only option!” He made a final statement and left the room.
After many debates with my parents and doctors, the cast came off, I had therapy for my ankle, and I anticipated that first day of cheerleading. I knew nothing would be the same, ever. It wasn’t as if I would never see my gymnastics friends ever again, it just wouldn’t be the same. While they were at gymnastics practice, I would be at cheerleading practice. We would see each other less and less and grow farther and farther apart and this crushed me. I didn’t want to grow apart from my friends, but their life was all gymnastics and mine wasn’t. I spent all my life building up this perfect world of mine, and now, I had to do it all over again. I was not excited for cheerleading or anything else.
I hated the walk into the All-Stars Cheerleading Teams, but I was strong and kept going. I watched the cheerleaders in disgust; their sloppy tumbling and bad handy-work repulsed me. They had no grace with anything they did and they threw everything around as if they were four. Girls criss-cross tumbled from each edge of the floor in an unorderly fashion and didn’t seem to care at all. I was ready to run out on this entire fiasco and never come back, but I was already here and I had to do it.
I introduced myself to my coaches, and they showed me to the rest of my team. I was offered small helloes as Tristan, my new coach, told me about his cheerleading program. I was told about their technique, style, skills, practices, uniforms, competitions, awards and everything else he could babble on about. After about 10 more minutes of bragging I rolled my eyes and showed him my tumbling skills. All eyes were on me as I gracefully tumbled, like a gymnast would. They could tell I was out of place. For the next eight weeks I returned to this gym three times each week to work with my team, and I dreaded every practice. I wasn’t open to making new friends, and although people tried really hard, I didn’t care and wanted to quit. My closed gymnastics attitude persisted in me.
It was one week before our first competition, and we practiced our routine. With no smile on my face, I began to base my flyer. We went up in the air and we fell, again. Tristan had a mad look on his face, and he pulled my stunt group aside.
“Look, we have our first competition NEXT SATURDAY!” he yelled through gritted teeth. “Ya’ll need to get it together, NOW!” He finished and went back to coaching the rest of the girls. The other 3 girls in my stunt group glared at me.
“Look gymnastics girl,” the tallest girl said to me, “I don’t know what your attitude problem is towards us but this actually means something to us, stop trying to mess this up! We know you’re capable of doing this so stop being a brat and get on that floor and hit the routine!” She rolled her eyes and walked off. I stood there, thinking about everything she had said to me. I realized that maybe, just maybe, I could do a little bit better in this sport, and that it actually meant something. For the first time, since I had been in cheerleading this other girl has opened my eyes and shown me that this isn’t a blow off sport, and that to a lot of people, this sport was everything. All this time I kept my attitude closed and only focused on how terribly I didn’t want to do this and didn’t notice how much this meant to other people. For my team member’s sake, I went on that practice floor and hit all my tumbling and my stunt group. We practiced perfectly, and that twelve year-old that told me off, gave me a smile, and for the first time in those two months, I felt accomplished.
My team went to regional’s at the George R. Brown center the next weekend. 25,000 people came to watch. Although my heart was still in gymnastics, I had to give this sport props, there had never been one competition where we had more than 5,000 people. I stood in front of all those people, nervous, but excited. I had no idea where this feeling came from. I wanted to win. I wanted to show all those people out there what my team and I could do. I wanted to show all those other teams we were up against what we were made of, and when our routine music started, I performed my heart out. I hit everything I did perfectly, not leaving out a motion, a skill or a mess up. I did everything the cheerleader way and with a smile, not for my coaches but because I wanted to. At the end of our routine my team jumped and screamed in happiness, and I finally felt a part of a group again. Later that night, we had awards, and we got First Place. I had never felt a better feeling in my entire life. Smiles stuck on every girl’s face and one on mine. Although my team and I had had some differences before, I know that this event pulled me closer together with them. I could feel the safety net of friends forming again, and I had never been happier. I started to like cheerleading and made some really good friends on my team. We continued the season, undefeated.
In the end, I was finally in a clique again, but this time anyone could be with us. We were nice to all cheerleaders, and we hung out with everyone. Being in cheerleading has taught me to do always do my best, work hard with everything I have and be a leader on my team. Cheerleading has shown me teamwork and sportsmanship, and I have never had so much fun in my entire life. Cheerleading changed my entire attitude towards life; I became more positive, friendly and open- minded. It is crazy how one small disaster can lead to something that will impact you for the rest of your life.
I’m still at All-stars, and it IS my entire life. We have won countless regional titles, 12 state titles and NCA National Champions. As for my gymnastics friends, we’re still friends but not as close. Cheerleading is my everything.





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