This past weekend I had the opportunity of emceeing a cheerleading competition with a friend of my church who also teaches at the local public high school. It was an interesting experience. When you think about the different sub-cultures in our society cheerleaders often have many stigmas and stereotypes attached to them. I will not list them here (because I think they are irrelevant). What I will say is that there were several times throughout the day where I felt really out of place because I did not know what the expectations were. But, I survived and had a great time supporting these young ladies and their coaches.
There are several young ladies in my youth group that are on the varsity squad. I have also had the chance to interact with some of the other cheerleaders because of the weekly devotions and lunch visits that I have been able to make since school started. What I have discovered as I have learned about the sport of competition cheerleading is that these young ladies (in some cases there are young men) have two and a half minutes to make an impression on seven judges. Two and a half minutes. All your successes and failures are on display for all to see. Talk about a pressure filled situation!
There are several thoughts that stood out to me over the course of the day that I have had a chance to reflect on in the past few days since. These are not in any particular order.
1. The fans of the squads feel the pains and celebrate the joys of those two and a half minutes with the squad.
I was struck by the way that the coaches and other members of the fan base knew the routines and tensed up when difficult components and stunts were coming up. It was an amazing thing to see how whole sections of the crowd breathed almost in sync with one another. There was such an emotional connection between competitor and supporters.
2. There is not place or time to stop, regroup and start over. You have to finish once you have started.
This is probably the most striking thing that I noticed. It did not matter if you fell, tripped, stumbled, dropped a stunt or forgot a movement in the choreography. You had to finish. Just as an example of this, one of the teams was executing some of their stunts and as the “flyer” (the girl that gets thrown into the air) was coming down she lost her balance. As the “bases” (the girls that lift, throw and catch the flyer) were making adjustments to catch the flyer, her foot caught one of the bases squarely on the face. There was a moment’s hesitation and then the girl that was kicked gained her bearing and continued the routine to the end. In any other situation I would imagine she might have fallen to the ground and clutched her face, but when you only have two and a half minutes, and your team is counting on you to finish you do not have the luxury of taking a personal moment.
3. You can not and you will not win or lose alone.
As the end of the competition came and the awards were about to be announced all the squads gathered on the mat. They took pictures, danced to the music (all of them!) and waited. It was one of those moments that are hard to explain, not because of they are all that unique in and of themselves, but because they are unique to you as an individual. I was announcing some of the winners and the collective eruption of joy from those that won and the disappointment from those that did not was a strange mixture of jubilation and sadness. What stood out to me was that the award was for the team. It took all of the members of the squad to win and the failure of one was the failure of all.
One final thought that I would like to say is this: Be open to hear from God in any and every situation. You just never know what God will say!