Our school had a legacy of winning competitions. We had several state championships under our belt, and an entire community of support rallying around us. In my senior year, we sailed through our conference and regional competitions, once again making us eligible for the state finals.
Our team was the first in school history to add a synchronized back tuck into our routine. We perfected the timing and landing of that difficult skill throughout the season, giving us a great shot at the state title. Our tight-knit group of twelve seniors was ready to fight to the end with the rest of our team in our last chance for the reigning title.
Some of the lessons are obvious. Life isn’t fair. Hard work isn’t always measured by awards and trophies.
I was intimidated by her at the time, which is probably why she was such an excellent coach. But now, I have come to a whole new level appreciation for her devotion. The amount of dedication and sacrifice it requires to bring teams to the state finals year after year is exponential.
While our team was completely absorbed in adding one more championship to our repertoire, she subtly taught us that there was a bigger picture in life. She took the time to handwrite individual cards to our 30 team members and gave them to us at our Christmas party.
She wrote to me, “The thing you need to remember is that these are skills you’re trying to accomplish – they don’t determine who you are inside.”
At the time, I did think that my skills determined who I was to a certain extent. And maybe it took placing second in the biggest competition of my life to realize that my identity went beyond “Grandville Cheerleader.” To be forced to move on to bigger and brighter things.
I have always wondered why my wonderful coach still comes back year after year and why she devotes her life to teams who may or may not win the state championship.
I see now that it has less to do with winning and more to do with shaping lives. Teaching young women about responsibility, hard work, dedication, team work, and pushing beyond natural limits.
All of my keepsakes and newspaper clippings from that all-consuming chapter of my life are now condensed into one manila folder.
And that life goes on.