A Holy Cross Cheerleader Lives Here

December 2, 2008
By Kelly Gioe, Slidell, LA

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

“Yes, mom, I’m sure,” I answered with frustration in my voice. I guess I had convinced her that I was telling the truth, because she finally unlocked the car. Truthfully, I had no idea what I was doing here. I had never cheered before. For my entire life, I was a dancer. Dance team, dance class, dance reviews, itchy costumes, and makeup that was only appropriate for a stage had been familiar parts of my life since I was two years old. Cheerleading, however, was completely foreign to me. All I knew about cheerleading was that I wanted to be on this team. Now, I realize that my courage that day gave me the independence and confidence that I didn’t know I had, and a lifetime of memories that I will never forget.

As I walked on campus, I wondered if the other girls and guys sensed my inexperience. Could they tell that I had never cheered before? Did they secretly laugh to themselves at my outfit? Navy blue shorts and a white t-shirt definitely said “Yes, I am a cheerleader.” However, the hot pink and lime green tennis shoes that I wore on my feet (I didn’t own a pair of cheerleading shoes) weren’t exactly cheer material. To add to my grief, I didn’t know a soul here. A few minutes later, five girls walked outside to greet us. Each girl wore a blue and gold Holy Cross cheerleading uniform, a white ribbon in her hair, and an exuberant, cheerleader smile. All of the girls were former members of the team, and they were our instructors for the day. Our leaders gave a warm welcome and guided the group inside, where a long day of anxiety and endurance awaited us.

Once we were inside the school building, our instructors ushered us into a small, dark room with little air conditioning. I soon learned that in this room we would learn the tryout dance and cheer. I instantly felt relieved. Dancing was familiar to me, and I easily learned and mastered all of the steps. I felt confident as our leaders encouraged us to repeat the dance over and over again. However, my dancing fun was short-lived, and the cheer lesson began.

“Be sharp! Tighten your motions! Louder! We can’t hear you!” The previously peppy cheerleaders turned into dictators, drilling constructive criticism into our heads. I struggled to figure out what these orders could possibly mean. I squeezed my arms until I felt them shaking when I performed my motions, but my efforts were not sufficient enough. Our leaders continued to stress these orders as we practiced for the next hour.

Later, I realized that being thrown into the air by complete strangers is quite scary.

“Don’t be scared. It’s really easy!” Seeing the terror in my face, the smallest and most energetic of the uniformed girls tried to encourage me.

“Easy for her to say,” I thought. This girl looked like a Barbie doll. I was certain that if I picked her up I could throw her tiny body at least ten feet across the yard. Before I could imagine any more scenarios, I was swept up into the hands of two girls about my size, and up I went. “Wow!” I thought. “I feel like a bird up here. This is kind of cool. Wait a minute; are these girls even strong enough to hold me? What if they drop me? Even worse, what if I never come back down?” Sweating and shaking with fear, I stood almost ten feet in the air, supported by only two girls below me.

“Okay, bring her down. Ready? One….two!” In one smooth motion, my stunt group carefully brought me back down to earth. I wanted to cry with joy when my feet touched the ground. At this moment, during my new appreciation for land, I decided that if I miraculously made the team, my feet were staying on the ground.

Back inside the school, we were informed that the try outs would begin soon, and we should practice our dance and cheer as much as possible. Chaos filled the room as we rushed to review the dance and cheer. However, before I had time to completely panic, practice was over. My stomach tightened, my palms began to sweat, and I felt terrified.
Outside of the building, there was nothing to do but wait. I secretly hoped that my turn would never come. What if I messed up? Would the judges laugh at me? I began to think that cheerleading wasn’t for me.

“Number 23!”

“Oh my God that’s me!” My mind began to race, and I stopped breathing. “What are the words to the cheer? What’s the first step of the dance? I’m going to look like a complete idiot!” My legs grew numb and my mind went blank. In the dark room, my heart was beating so hard I was certain the judges could hear my pulse. I was alone, and the heavy wood door slammed shut behind me.

At home that night, I couldn’t sleep. The house was silent. I stared at the ceiling for hours before I rolled out of bed and headed downstairs to get a glass of water. I could hear my dad snoring on the couch and the television blaring as I tried to tip-toe down the squeaky stairs. I had just reached the bottom of the stairs when I saw something that made my heart stop beating. A yellow poster board with blue and gold balloons was hanging on the front door of my house. I froze with shock. Then, realizing what I was seeing, I ran across the living room and ripped the door open. The words, “A Holy Cross Cheerleader Lives Here,” were written on the bright yellow paper in navy blue and silver glitter. Tears streamed down my face as I stood on my front porch in the cool spring air of that night. In this moment, I realized that I had accomplished my goal against all odds, and I was officially a Holy Cross Cheerleader.

Four years later, my family and friends are still amazed by my accomplishment. They laugh at the idea of a young girl attending a cheerleading clinic with no experience or companions and actually making the team. Although this image humors me, I truly admire that girl. She was insecure and scared, but she was also determined and courageous. I try to hold on to these traits, because I am now the team captain. As my senior year slowly comes to an end, I am sad that my days as a Holy Cross Cheerleader and captain are numbered. However, I find comfort knowing that no matter where I go, a Holy Cross Cheerleader lives in my heart forever.

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