One of the cool things, albeit at the time I didn’t like it, about my new school was the abundance of summer activities. Fall sports started their practices in June/July and rolled into the season. However, I was only concerned with the cheerleading team who invited all interested students and incoming freshmen to attend their summer practices.
My first love
I first fell in love with it after joining my middle school team. There I served as a member of the competition team for a year and a captain for two years. It was a great source of joy and gave me a sense of school pride. One would assume that I would be ecstatic to have the opportunity to cheer at the high school level. Don’t get me wrong, I was very excited. But for every ounce of excitement, I had a gallon of nerves (to later be properly labeled as anxiety).
My mom drove me to the first practice on a steamy Monday morning. Upon arrival, a group of grown women sat around a picnic table. (In all actuality they were anywhere from 14-17, but compared to my middle school friends they might as well have 401Ks.)
Let’s remember that I knew ZERO incoming freshmen. My friend’s older sister went to the school, but I didn’t find that help that day as she wasn’t a cheerleader.
To this day I would still categorize myself as a shy individual. Don’t get me wrong I can be quite sociable and talk, A LOT. But that’s not always my default. However, I am working on it and I do think I am getting better. :)
Tbh I don’t have a third one, but I think 3 bullets look better than 2. Anywho, back to the story
A few months prior I met the coach at some sort of welcome day thing that I vaguely remember. After a quick scan over the multitude of unfamiliar faces, I knew she wasn’t there. So I decided to wait in the car with my mom. And then she showed up. I don’t know why my 14-year-old brain assumed that she would never show up. *Cue anxiety* I BEGGED my mom to let me stay in the car and she actually let me stay until it looked like they were getting started. Then I got the boot. With my cheer shoes on and my water bottle in hand, I headed to what felt like my death.
I sat there silently not making eye contact with anyone. I drank and drank my water to avoid having to add anything to the conversation. We went around in a circle, said our name, year, and probably a fun fact or something. After everyone finished their introductions, I discovered that there was another freshman there, but she had an older sister on the team. In other words, I was the only one that didn’t know anyone. To my surprise, I wasn’t the only person of color there (not that I ever talked to the one other girl, but in the beginning, her presence did help me to feel more comfortable).
The coach informed us that most days the practices were held on the school’s football field. Which was GREAT news for me. The one person I know, my mom, can sit in her car and watch me not talk to anyone and on my water breaks, I could jump back into the air-conditioned car. HOWEVER, due to the heat, this practice was moved to the gym. LOL. So I, Asia Woods, would have to go to a new space ALONE with all these strange people I had quite literally just met. I flipped. (Okay, I didn’t really flip, because I was too afraid to show any emotions. In my head, no emotions meant that no one would pay attention to me so I was basically invisible. Which isn’t true, but whatever.) I ran back to my mom telling her that they wanted me to go inside with them. (Quick shout out to my mom, who I know is reading this. She really had a LOT of patience to sit there and listen to me cry about the smallest things.) Together, my mom and I walked back to the coach to ask if my mom could come with us to the gym (Honestly, if the coach would have said no, I would have just left and never came back).
Even though the answer was yes, the pure thought of changing locations was too overwhelming and it didn’t help that I downed a 20 oz water bottle in 5 minutes. I went over to the grassy area and relieved my stomach from all its contents (Cute right? Truth be told, I actually blocked this out of my memory until one of the girls brought it up the following year). Now on top of being anxious, I was mortified that all these big kids (as my mom would have referred to them) had witnessed such a, in my opinion, humiliating moment. I am almost positive that I cried (However, like I said I blocked out the majority of that portion of the day).
After regaining my composure, my mom asked me if I wanted to leave. And I said no because I didn’t. I was excited to get to know the girls and learn the cheers and do the stunts, etc., but I was still anxious. So we joined the rest of the girls in the gym. Instead of participating, I joined the coach on the sideline watching the girls learn cheers (which I enjoyed. I would half-do the cheers, but decline every time someone asked if I wanted to join). After it was clear that I was feeling better and choosing not to participate, my mom said it was time to go. I was a little sad to leave early, but I wasn’t going to participate (partly because I was terrified and partly because I felt like breath HAD to be kicking).
I mustered together all the courage I had in me to go to the next practice Wednesday night. And for the rest of the summer, I had a grand time.
To the girl who thought she never could…
It is more than okay to be nervous and/or anxious and/or scared. This is a brand new environment. That nervous feeling in your throat and in your stomach will go away soon. And I encourage you to try at the bare minimum. This new experience may become a highlight in your life.