Oversized hair bows, the aroma of hairspray, and team spirit permeated the air of the USA Cheer Camp. As a total rookie to the world of cheerleading, I found myself overwhelmed by not only being the youngest participant, but also the smallest in stature. Talk about feeling insecure, and even insignificant, I prayed that I wouldn’t let my team down. I began wondering if my hasty decision, a month ago, to try out for my high school cheer team with absolutely no experience, except for some mediocre modern dance classes at school, would find me way over my head. Watching the other teams practice routines, sure didn’t build my confidence, but rather made my stomach a churning mess.
Feeling like an underdog I tried to ignore the rising pressure. Since I’d faced being small my whole life, I knew in my heart that anything was possible if I just believed in myself. Believe me, first impressions count. Thankfully, my team made a memorable one during opening ceremonies when we marched in spiritedly, chanting as we strutted like peacocks into our blue tent adorned with silver sparkly lettering. Nervously, I began sizing each other up all the explosive bundles of energy in my vicinity, looking for strengths and weaknesses. Positioning myself behind my larger teammates, silence swept over the group as soon as the professional cheerleaders took the stage, hitting poses like statues. We watched in awe as the pros performed the routines for the day showcasing a full two minutes and thirty-seconds of stunts executed precisely with sharp choreography, and most importantly, facial expressions that you could write home. We all roared as the flyers shot up into full extensions with no room for error. Holy cow! As a flyer for my team, I had visions of a looming catastrophe before me, knowing that in no way could my routine be described as error free.
My heart pounded as I made my way to the beginners’ stunting class. “Ready! Okay! 5 - 6 - 7 - 8,” a member of the cheer staff shouted. Each team in the group was expected to launch their routine simultaneously, synchronizing together. Everyone pulled it off, except for me. With arms flapping in all directions, I felt like a bird coming in for a crash landing as the stunt crumbled, feeling as though a slow motion button had been pushed as I watched myself headed straight into the dirt. Sputtering and spitting out dirt, I lifted my head up, not knowing whether to laugh or cry. For sure after that, the rookie label stood emblazoned on my forehead. Thank God, the class finally came to an end.
Knowing that we needed to change course and execute what we practiced days earlier, I reminded myself to lighten up because it wasn’t the end of the world. Or was it? Intent on changing my mindset, I whipped my bobbing pony tail to my left, to spot the blue and gold Bayside High School team practicing. With their flawless stunting techniques, their reputation preceded them because I knew they swept the top awards at all of last season’s competitions. My eyes immediately settled on the tallest and most stunning girl in their group. I guess you could describe her as “drop dead gorgeous”. We locked eyes, and I instantly felt inferior. I even had the sensation of shrinking into the ground when she flashed that perfect smile, you know, that perfectly fake smile. As she turned to her teammate to utter some cutting remark about me, I’m sure, her eyes never left mine. Wishing I could disappear, or better yet that she would disappear, I turned back to join my team, intent on clearing my mind and focusing on nailing my next routine.
After three grueling, intense days, our team jelled. We nailed our routines time and time again, improving with each performance, and thankfully, I never face-planted into the dirt again. Much to my total amazement as we completed one flawless routine toward the end of the competition, I heard a shout out from one of the USA cheerleaders, “Hey, little one, you’re a mini Beyonce. You need to dance with us someday.”
Well, after that comment, I must say I soared, and my feet never ever needed to leave the ground. Equally remarkable, Miss Perfect from Bayside strolled up to me and complimented me on our routine and my performance. I knew life couldn’t get any better than this, but I was wrong. During the final awards ceremony, I sat stunned when I heard my name called for best performance effort. In a total daze, I mounted the stage to receive a trophy for the “Werk It Award”. When I reunited with my joyful team members, we celebrated with chants of “small, but mighty”.