My coach’s mouth was moving, but her words had no meaning. It seemed like she was speaking gibberish. I knew she was scolding us for screwing up again and I could feel myself start to shake from the anxiety of failure. My breathing was quickening by the second and my body was becoming numb from the lack of oxygen. Tears gathered in my eyes and were ready to fall, but I knew I couldn’t let myself cry in front of everyone. Suddenly her words made sense when she excused the team to get water. I practically sprinted out into the hallway and went to the furthest water fountain in hopes of being hidden from everyone else. I didn’t want them to see me cry. It made me feel weak.
As soon as I knew I was out of sight, I let my tears fall freely from my eyes. The salty liquid fell fast and I could taste remnants of it as it flowed down my face, some of it getting into my open mouth as I sobbed uncontrollably. Everyone always told me cheer was easy, but I could clearly see they were lying. There was so much more pressure than I could handle and it was tearing me down emotionally. A burn in my lungs began to form as a result of my shallow breaths. My body slid onto the cool tiled floors and I scooted into the corner, hoping I could calm myself down. I leaned my back against the brick wall and the rough texture scratched against my sweaty skin. However, that wasn’t the current thought on my mind. I first had to figure out what to do with myself and the sport that I had already devoted so much time and effort to.
I knew this horribly uncontrollable panic attack was due to the fact my coach wasn’t very good at her job. She pushed everyone to unreasonably extremes and didn’t care about physical and emotional limits. Through my tears, I could see one of my teammates making her way over to me. I started viciously wiping my eyes in hopes that she couldn’t tell that I had been crying. Right before she got to me, I pulled my knees close to me in an attempt to hide my heaving chest.
She crouched down beside me and spoke with sympathetic eyes, “Coach says it’s time for you to come back in.” I stared helplessly up at her, not wanting to have to walk back into the gym looking like an emotional wreck. However, she didn’t say another word, just stood up and held her hand out for me. Knowing my weakened body and soul could never make it up itself, I accepted her offer. As we walked towards the gym I tried to force myself to take deeper breaths and calm down. My teammate tried to console me by rubbing her hand in circles on my back, but nothing was working, I was inconsolable.
We walked into the gym together to see the entire team sitting in a circle on the bright, fuzzy blue mats. They all stared as we joined the group and awaited directions from our coach. My coach moved to the center of the circle, causing everyone to fall silent, and awkwardly cleared her throat loudly before speaking. Coach said, “I know some of you are a little unhappy right now. So, I thought it would be a good time to have a team meeting and all address our problems.”
A lump grew in my throat as I tried to piece together what I was going to say. I knew that if I was acting in my best interest, I would drop myself out of the upcoming competition, knowing very well they could manage without me. So, that’s what I did. When it came to be my turn, I confidently and said, “I quite frankly don’t like how things are run here. I’m sorry but I’m too stressed out to be able to fully commit myself. I apologize for the short notice, but I can’t make myself do this competition. It’s hurting me too much.” I knew some people would be disappointed that I backed out; however, I’m the only one that truly knows what’s best for me and in this situation, what was best for me was to get an emotional break from the overpowering stress that comes along with being a cheerleader.