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Sports are not my thing. They never have been. I find myself challenged at playing them and quite frankly bored by watching them. However as a sophomore in high school aspiring to top end colleges I saw sports as the one thing I was missing. When the winter sports season neared I got the paper and looked for what I could try out for. I had always enjoyed dancing so cheer excited me. I knew some older girls on the squad who I admired and knew the cheer coach. Unsure as to if I could try out for cheer in the winter I sent a message to the coach. She said I couldn’t but sent a breezy message telling me she looked forward to seeing me try out in the spring and that they had great activities planned for the following year.
So I looked back over the list of sports. Begrudgingly I decided to try out for basketball. I had played once in fourth grade and it hadn’t been my least favorite thing ever. This time it was a disaster. My skills were obviously lacking for that of a high school team. Other girls had played since they were toddlers, I could barely ever make a basket. No one ever passed to me. By the end of try out week when I was one of only two girls to be cut I was relieved.
I waited winter out without a sport and prepared for cheer try outs in the spring. Everyday I stretched, did the splits and practiced toe touches. I met with an older girl who was on Varsity and she helped me prepare by learning the jumps, getting stronger and learning how to rally.
I wanted to be popular. I wasn’t one of the girls crowned prom queen or asked to all the dances. Boys didn’t even look at me.
When friends at school heard I was trying out they gave me a fake smile. “You don’t seem like a cheerleader,” one girl told me. I was offended. “You’re too nice,” she shot back. But I protected the cheerleaders. I had plenty of friends who were cheerleaders. I didn’t want anyone saying anything bad about them.
My mom wasn’t thrilled with the idea of me being a cheerleader, either. She tried her best to not let on her feelings about cheerleaders, but I know it was hard. She was not part of the popular crowd and saw them as being bullies and full of themselves. Nevertheless she supported me and my quest to become part of that crowd.
By try out week I was euphoric. My mom felt I was ready. We learned a dance. I practiced. We learned a cheer. I practiced. I constantly practiced. I attended every teaching session while others skipped on some. The final try out night came and I felt like I rocked it.
The final person finished trying out and we all sat on the gym floor waiting for the coaches to make their decisions. The air was tense and airy at the same time. The girls who were already on the team laughed. The rest of us were silent. My heart pounded in my chest, my hands grew sweaty.
Finally the cheer coach walked into the gym where we all sat. She stood in front of us with a clipboard in her hand and began to read names. These were the people she wanted to come into the other room to talk to her. We all knew what that really meant.
I waited. One name down. A second name down. Then my name. My heart sunk. As I stood up and followed her through the door I forced myself to avoid making eye contact with any of the other girls. Their eyes were all glued on us. We lined up in front of the two coaches. I shook with shock. There were about seven of us all standing in a row, all of our bodies filled with dread.
“I wanted to tell you that you all did a great job and we wish we could accept everyone. Unfortunately we have a limited amount of spaces and you didn’t get in.”
I continued to look down, unable to make eye contact with the coaches. The head coach had seemed so encouraging. The way she told me about next year I felt sure that I would be accepted. I was no worse than anyone else. I felt abandoned, as if the cheer coach simply didn’t like me. Was I too nerdy? Too much of a good girl?
Our dejected group of rejects paraded out of the room and into the gym. One of my older friends jumped up at me and embraced me in a huge hug. When she let go I made my way out, forcing myself not to cry. When in the privacy of the night, my eyes flooded.
It took a while of feeling horrible. There were days when I felt that it was a disaster. I felt like this was the end of the world. Many people were shocked that I had been cut. A few months later a girl on cheer in my sixth period class turned to me and said, “I was shocked you were cut. It made me so mad. You did really well. You should have gotten in instead of the pregnant girl.”
I thanked her, but by that time I was over it. Since that day nearly two years ago I have moved on. I see the coach and the other girls and I know that I wouldn’t fit in there. No matter how much I wanted to be I am not a popular girl. Maybe my friend was right and I’m too nice. Or maybe I care too much about school. Or maybe the issue is that I don’t party. The reason doesn’t matter though.
I don’t know how my social life would be different if I was a cheerleader and I don’t care. It made me stronger and in the end I would rather become stronger by being rejected from something silly like cheer than something more important in the long run. Because of this I am more comfortable in who I am, unpopular, bad at sports and all.