I graduated high school fifteen years ago. In many ways it feels like a million years ago. So much has changed since that time for me and just within the world. While I was in high school cell phones were just coming out, and a few people had them; Phones that could take photos were next level. We would still write paper notes to each other and MySpace and AOL messenger were our forms of social media.
I was a cheerleader in high school and my senior year was the last year that our team won State. In the years since, several teams have come close. But through the last fifteen years, we still hold the last State Champion title for our school. I’m not writing this to relive my glory days. My old coach contacted a few of us from that year and asked us to come speak to the squad; help motivate them for their upcoming competition.
She asked us to speak about what it meant to win state, and pass along any advice to help inspire the girls. Motivate and inspire, teenage girls; that sounded like a tall order. She’s asked that we speak about what a highlight it was in our lives. At the time, it was a huge highlight, and a major accomplishment. It was the culmination of years of hard work, dedication and determination.
Since that time, after I hung up my pompoms, I haven’t thought much about that state title. I stepped out of the world of competitive cheer, and now that world feels like a lifetime ago. Yet, at the time, is was the cherry on top of my senior year. However, I knew that if I walked in and said that ‘winning state was the highlight of my life and I think about it all the time’ I would not only be lying, but they would see right through me.
What could I say that would be relevant and also authentic? What would I have wanted to hear from someone 15 years older than me? I settled on two major points, which could be motivational for cheer and also just good life advice. I am certainly not some wise old sage, but if I could convey these two sentiments in some authentic way, hopefully I could help.
First, ‘leave it all out on floor.” Give this everything you have. If you give something your all, every bit of hard work, blood, sweat and tears, then at the end of the day win or lose, you will know you did everything you could. You may not always win. The year prior to our state championship, we came in fourth; to all our surprise and dismay. But we came back, worked even harder and left everything on the floor; and that hard work paid off.
Right before we were set to compete at State that year, we were in the warm up area when one of our flyers came down hard out of a stunt. She twisted her ankle and said she didn’t think she could perform. We had about 5-10 minutes before we were set to go on, and reworking our entire routine was simply not an option. There’s multiple versions of exactly how this next part went, but the general idea is that the other captain and I looked at each other, looked at her, and I basically told her we wouldn’t be reworking the routine and she needed to fight through it.
Minutes before our turn, there was no way we could have successfully reworked a routine that our entire squad worked months on perfecting. I told her ‘you can do anything for 2.5 minutes,’ and that she basically needed to suck it up. Not my kindest moment; but if she didn’t go out there, and give it her all for herself and her team, the air would have been filled with regret (and 17 year old girl attitudes). We all went out there, gave it everything we had and came out on top. When the routine was over we carried our injured teammate up the stairs and straight to medical attention.
Which leads to me to my second point, ‘You will never regret being kind.’ I like to think when I told her she needed to push through the pain that I was doing so with the wisdom of years to come. I like to think I knew adrenaline would kick in and she would be able to perform without pain while endorphins pumped through her. I’d like to think I was kind. In reality, although it needed to be said, I’m sure I could have sprinkled some sugar on my words. I’ve heard that we shouldn’t have regrets, because everything we do happens for a reason and teaches us something. But I think one of the biggest regrets most people encounter, is moments where they didn’t choose to be kind; Where they could have acted in more kindness and didn’t. Those regrets are real.
If I could impart any wisdom or motivation to those young girls, those are the messages I want to send. Those are the messages that when I was younger, I wish I would have followed. Even today, if we all give something everything we’ve got, and act out of kindness, imagine the life we could create. Imagine how this would positively impact our life, and those around us. Imagine the possibilities.