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Motivational Quote 10-17-03
October 17, 2003
A Cheerleader for Life

I practiced hard all summer, honing my skills. I did high kicks, straight moves and even smiled through a cartwheel. I had reached a goal I'd dreamed of since I was in grammar school. I'd been chosen to be a Cheerleader! Me! I could not ask for more. My prayer was answered. I knew it was going to be a great year for this 9th grader as I planned on cheering my heart out for my Junior High school.

Cheerleader tryouts had been pretty difficult. Even though I had the moves down and the rhythm of a jitterbug dancer, I doubted that I would be picked. Surely, they would choose the gorgeous girls rather than the girl next door type. Popularity had to be a prerequisite, I concluded. Although I was an honor student and well liked, I was not part of the "in crowd." On the day the selections were made, I waited anxiously as the Cheer Director counted the votes. When my name was among the seven announced winners, I couldn't believe my ears!

Some of my friends tried out as well, but there was no jealousy when I won the position. My attitude was one of gratefulness and humility. I could cheer and be the best friend ever, all at the same time. The only draw back came in the form of a small, athletic woman more than twice my age. Her name was Miss Allen. She was the cheerleading coach as well as a P.E. teacher. Although she was a pretty thing, she had a pointed nose that would turn ruby red when she was angry. Her eyes could pierce through you like a dagger on a mission. One would never want to cross her, I decided.

Nothing I did that summer even won me a "good job Ginger," from Miss Allen. A smile from her was a rarity. Up 'till then, my teachers had given me praise for my efforts in keeping a straight A-average, so I treated cheerleading just like I did my studies. I hoped that, in time, I would win the coach's approval.

Cheer Camp was enlightening and I readily bonded with the other girls. Shopping for our uniforms, taking photos and practicing daily left little time for other activities. The school year began with a heavy schedule. At the end of each day I was pooped, yet no one, including Miss Allen, knew what was going on in my home.

Diagnosed with congestive heart failure, my Mom had been sick since I was thirteen. I hated to see her suffer. My Dad was a good father but he was an alcoholic. I rarely brought anyone home for fear of embarrassment. It felt like I was living a double life between home and school. I worried daily about my mother's condition while I pretended all was fine with me. Mom actually made it to one of our football games that year to watch me cheer. She never came again, though, as her health steadily declined.

Soon, the insecurity of my world began to show in my cheerleading. I mastered the routines, but Miss Allen began picking on me anyway. "Ginger, what kind of cheer leader can you be if you stick your tongue out to the side like that?" I guess I hadn't noticed. She intimidated me with those critical daggers. Her pointed nose flaring open and closed, like a bull preparing to charge its target, definitely clued me in on her disappointment. Nevertheless, the more I tried to tame my tongue, the more insecure I became.

Miss Allen never asked me about my family or anything, for that matter. She could not see that I was struggling to find my bearings at a very tumultuous time in my life. She apparently had no clue as to how her words might affect a young girl's self esteem. Miss Allen was unaware that my Mom was dying. My performance was all that mattered to her. The cheer squad was serious business to her, for sure.

One day at practice, I was shot with another one of her lethal looks. On this occasion, Miss Allen stopped our routine, and singled me out in front of the girls. Pointing her finger at me, she yelled, "You're still doing that thing with your tongue, Ginger! You will never be successful in cheerleading or anything else for that matter, with your tongue sticking out of the side of your mouth. It looks stupid!"

At that point, you could hear a blade of grass grow on that field, and I felt my face turning as red as her nose. Tears welled up in my eyes, but I gulped back my emotion and agreed quickly with a "Yes Ma'am."

She was right, I am sure it looked stupid, but now I felt stupid. From that moment on, I concentrated harder on keeping my tongue in my mouth as I led the cheers for the crowd. Eventually the annoying habit disappeared, but the hurtful comments lingered.

In between graduating from junior high and starting high school, I lost some of the confidence I had gained. I decided not to try out for any extra curricular activities.

In the 10th grade, I got the dreaded call at school that there was a family emergency. School may have been hard, but life was harder. I lost my Mom that April. She was my best friend. Three years later my Dad passed away. After that, I made some wrong choices in life, which nearly caused me to live out Miss Allen's words. Fortunately for me, God intervened, and became the anchor I hung onto for dear life. I knew that one day he would make sense of it all, and he did. Four years after graduation, I married my high school sweetheart, and was blessed with three wonderful children who I have cheered on each day of their lives.

At a trophy ceremony for my son's Little League team, I was awarded "Best Team Mom and Cheerleader ever." My husband and my kids smiled proudly at me. We joked about the award, but my success in life was evident in the faces of my family and the friends that filled my world with "good cheer." The love and approval, that was mutually invested, came back to me day after day. It sure didn't take a performance to see that. I could not have asked for more.

Through the years, I've thought about those hurtful words spoken to me at the impressionable age of fourteen, and how desperately I wanted Miss Allen's approval. An utterance by one in authority can often make a difference in how we view ourselves. It's a shame that she didn't really know how "to cheer."

Now, there's probably a lesson to be learned here, but in this case I'd say it was more for the teacher than for the student. As for me, I can assure you that I have successfully become - with tongue in cheek - a "Cheerleader for Life!"

Ginger Boda

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