I joined cheer per my mother’s request the summer before eighth grade. She told me that if I joined the squad I could quit track due to my hatred for running. I ended up continuing track throughout my high school career, but that is besides the point. Somehow, my mom ended up becoming our coach, and I went on to join the varsity squad my freshman year. For the first two years of varsity, I had two coaches that had daughters on the team. The first year, my coach always made sure the younger girls (AKA me and one other freshman) felt comfortable with the older girls. The next year, my new coach had a weekly lunch in her classroom, and always made sure to resolve issues the right way. I fell in love with cheer, and loved every second of the time I spent with my girls. That all changed my junior year.
Junior year actually wasn’t all bad. Sure, it was difficult to transition to yet another coach, but at first everything was fine and dandy. I was late to practice once, and you laughed it off, claiming that everybody made mistakes. I was soft-spoken, but you pushed me to become a leader among my teammates. You invited me into your home, and made me feel, along with the other girls, feel welcomed. You even led us to getting first place in the state competition. Suddenly, though, you changed. You started playing favorites towards the girls with “important parents.” You gossiped about students more than most of the high school girls. Parents and students alike began to text me asking questions, because you were always lacking information.
All of that was totally forgivable, though. It wasn’t until I entered my senior year, freshly appointed captain and brand new UCA All-American. That’s when you broke my spirit. It started in October, when you told me no for the first time. I am typically the type of person that does well with this sort of thing, but the way you handled was wrong. My dad had spent hundreds of dollars to get my sister tickets to see her favorite band for her sixteenth birthday, a ticket for me and a ticket for her. To go to said concert would’ve meant missing one football game. I had never once missed anything before, which no other girl on that squad could say. Yet you told me no. Actually, you threatened to suspend me from my role as captain if I did. Out of fear of losing something so important to me, I didn’t even put up a fight. She spent her sixteenth birthday without me, and you didn’t even care.
That was only the beginning of the treatment I received. When I had a doctor’s note saying I couldn’t come to a Saturday practice, you had to talk to my mom since my word wasn’t good enough. I got kicked in the face, and you laughed in my face when I started crying, despite the fact that I kept cheering regardless. You introduced someone else as captain at the state cheer competition right in front of me. You ignored my texts when I told you I needed q quote for the yearbook. Worst of all, when I had an anxiety attack during practice, you told me in front of everyone to “never act like that again” in front of the younger girls.
I am not writing this to be malicious in any way, though if you ever read this, you’ll probably think otherwise. In fact, you probably won’t even remember half these incidents that are so prominent in my final memories of the sport. But I wrote this to the coach that broke my spirit to say thank you. Thank you for showing me how strong I can be. Thank you for showing me I can be a leader even in undesirable conditions. Thank you for showing me that not everyone has to like me, and that I am perfectly okay without your stamp of approval that I once craved.
When people ask me about my favorite memories in high school, they usually revolve around cheer. Despite everything, I am so thankful for the memories and bonds I made with everyone I ever cheered with. One time I had another students parents come up to me and ask if you and I had an issue. I told them no, and I strongly believe that. I wouldn’t go back to my time on the squad, but that is because I have grown up and moved on from who I was then. You helped shaped me into who I am, and for that I am grateful. To the coach that broke my spirit, thank you.