As my blonde pigtails bounced around while I ran across the lawn, it seemed as if I was walking on springs. I had my brand new t-shirt on with the words “I heart cheer ” written across the chest in pink, sparkly glitter. I loved the t-shirt so much because the sparkles gave me an edge over the other kids and their bland shirts. With a huge smile across my face, even though my two front teeth were missing, I was a little ray of sunshine. At five years old, I had found my passion: cheerleading. I walked into the Midwest Twisters Gym for the first time with my pom-poms and cheer shoes ready to take on this new adventure. This was it. This was finally the day that I would be able to do what I had dreamed of doing.
Full of ambition, I watched the older cheerleaders in awe as they flawlessly executed tumbling passes, or as I called them at the time “the cool flippy things”. I watched them toss girls 15 feet into the air and it looked as if they were floating as carelessly as a feather through the air. The flyers were so flexible. They were able to pull their legs to their head, and the bases were so strong I was certain they could tackle a football player with just one arm. All I wanted to do was be just like them.
I walked out onto the mat bouncing up and down as excitement poured out of me. I was ready to take on my first practice. Not only was I finally going to be cheering, but the older girls, my idols, were going to be practicing with us as me as they tried to figure out who had what skills.
“Hi ladies, I am Coach Julie White!”, the older lady said with optimism.
She was wearing a brand name outfit, which contained a LuLuLemon long sleeve workout top and leggings, along with her bright white Nike Tennis Shoes. Her hair was slicked back into a low pony and her smile looked almost as wide as mine.
“I am really excited to get to know all of you, but before we make teams, we need to see what skills everyone has! I don’t want any of you to get nervous, we will make sure we find a place for everyone here”, she said with a head nod for encouragement.
“Now, let’s start with some forward rolls”, she shouted as she clapped her hands in an attempt to keep the energy flowing through the room.
Easy, I thought as I started to roll across the mat. Within a minute, I stood on the other side of the floor with my head held high because I had successfully completed the first task. The thrill of finally being able to participate in this gym made me feel awakened.
“Now time for cartwheels, you guys can do it!”, she shouted.
My heart began to pound and sweat started to drip off of my face as I sat there looking like a lost puppy. My eyes glanced around and I filled with worry as I tried to figure out what the other girls were doing.
Alright their hands go down first, then they kick their legs up and flip, I repeated in my head. It can’t be that hard right?
With a deep breath, I started to attempt it.
I put my hands on the floor.
Why are my legs not kicking? Oh no what do I do?!
Within a second, I had fallen straight to the ground and layed there unable to move. I did not fall gracefully such as a leaf floating to the ground, but rather like a meteor striking the earth. I felt the color of my face turn to the shade of a tomato as I realized that I couldn’t do it. With slumped shoulders and my face staring down at the ground, I began to walk to the other side of the floor where everyone went when they finished. I was greeted by an older girl who had executed her cartwheels so well, I was certain she could do them in her sleep. She was fierce, strong, and everything I aspired to be.
“You can’t do a cartwheel? I thought everyone could do one”, she said as she laughed at me.
I felt the tears slowly starting to form in my eyes and eventually drip down my face. How can this be? Why is she laughing? What am I doing wrong? Why doesn’t she like me?
I walked out of the gym that day feeling defeated. I wasn’t good enough.
“How was practice today honey?”, my mom asked in her gentle, soothing voice.
Her warmth instantly comforted me and for a split second I forgot about why I had tear stains streaked on my face.
“I’m... I’m not good enough Mommy. I can’t do.... I can’t do a cartwheel”, I managed to gasp out between my tears.
The girls laughter rang through my head and I didn’t understand why the sport I thought I would love so much had already caused me so much pain. I was bewildered by the idea that a role model of mine looked at me as a joke.
“Now honey, just because you can’t do it now, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to. You aren’t going to succeed in life unless you work for it. No matter what people say, you can do whatever you set your mind to”, she said in an effort to cheer me up.
I wiped my face and sat there for a moment until I realized what my mom meant and a question popped into my head.
Why am I letting that older girl tell me that I can’t do this? I’ll show her that I can, just watch me!
I stood up instantly with my hands in fists. My chest was straight as I marched out the door to my backyard. I felt as if I was going to battle.
I will get this cartwheel. I will be just as good as the big girls!
I repeated this over and over in my head with certainty.
Hours seemed to fly by as I attempted it hundreds of times. My first attempt ended with me lying dead on the ground yet again, but it was different this time. I immediately bounced back up and tried it again. Repeatedly, I did this. I would fall to the ground and get back up only to fall back down again.
“C’mon Savannah, you can do this! I believe in you!”, my mom shouted to me from the patio.
After a while, it started to get easier. Falling straight to the ground turned into falling to my knees, and eventually to one knee. I focused on the technique, ensuring I was perfecting my long lunge and hand placement. Fall after fall, I kept standing up and talking to myself in an effort to finally execute the skill.
First, step forward and go into the lunge. Okay, now squeeze my arms by my ears and lean forward. Alright, now quick the back foot and point my toes.
All of the sudden, I realized that I had actually made it to my feet! I stood up in shock as I realized all of my hard work had paid off. I began to jump up and down as I realized what I had just accomplished. I finally did it!
With my head held high and a bright smile across my face, I ran back into my house.
The laughter of that older girl’s reaction to my cartwheel began to disappear from my head. Suddenly, all I couldn’t wait to show my cartwheel to her. It turns out, I really can do anything that I set my mind to.