The Saturday morning alarm shot me out of my sleep like the bugle player on a military base. Loud. Rude. Interrupting. I had to get dressed and get my cheerleader to her competition. This would be the last time in the next 2 days I will get to sleep. I mean really sleep. For here on out, I can't rest until Sunday Night.
As we arrive you could hear it from the parking lot. Like distant bombs hitting the ground over the battle field. We unload and start to walk into the convention center and the bombs grew louder. It's the constant bass thumping that shakes you in your chest. Lining the hallways are the casualties of war.
Broken hair bows.
You could hear them all sharing war stories of falls, trips, and missed 8 counts.
All along the carpet you could see glitter running like blood from a wound. Aerosol hairspray hangs in the air like Napalm. Down the hall you could see them getting ready. Putting on their war paint for their turn in the battle.
The bombs are getting louder. It's hard to judge if its just the booming bass in the other room, or is it your own heartbeat pulsating in my ear. I don't know who is more nervous. Me? Or Audrey?
Audrey gets her war paint on, and suits up to go into battle. Screaming girls, crying infants, and cheer moms surround us like Charlie in a jungle. Audrey is in the zone. Eyes closed, and I am sure she was visualizing her routine. Her lips, ever so subtle, mouthing 5-6-7-8 hands and arms twitching like she is in Beta pattern sleep. She is visualizing. Getting ready. It all must be perfect. She is blocking out anything.
Much like the battles of the Civil War, the crowds turned out. Wading through this type of crowd its hard not to step, bump, or shove into another person. Groups of girls walking arm and arm, chanting a 'spirit' cheer and they cut me off. Not once, not twice, but three times. Being in a hurry is futile. Trying to go faster just meets you with resistance and impatience. Shuffle along like the rest of them. Subdue that urge to yell, swear, and push everyone out of the way! Eventually you can find a seat in the cramped convention center stage area with your concession stand picnic.
Team 1. [Insert something like, Xtreme, Warrior, or anything else that sounds good] All Stars. They all take the stage. The oldest girl on the team couldn't be more than 7. Cue heavy bass music in perfect 4x4 time. 23 8-counts later, its over. The crowds of parents and teammates screaming for their children are louder than any crowd in sports.
Team 2. My daughter's team. My heart is pounding. Is she going to get this routine down today or fumble in the same spots she does in practice? Is she going to buckle under the intense crowd?
The music starts. In the next 2 minutes 3 seconds these kids unfold their cheer routine much like a perfect executed flank. Other team's parents would say that this was not flawless. They would pick it apart, try and create scrutiny over their performance to somehow prove that their team was better. Their stunts were there. The energy was there. No one told the team that they were not competing for 1st place, 2nd place, or even 3rd place. They were labeled exhibition. That means they are there for just the experience of competing. They are judged as if they are, but rankings are not applied to the results because they want these girls to be excited. In private, they are told they are number 1. They all get a trophy. They all were perfect. Next year is when they get the challenge of practicing for ranks. This year is designed to be just fun. When they hit 7 is when they start to do it for real. The points are real. The falls are real. The scrutiny is real.
Cheer leading is more of a contact sport than football. Injuries are an inevitability.
After my daughter's performance, I got to see my step-daughter [the ex wife's 1st born] perform. This year she made a leap. Due to the vindictive little brats on her first team, she changed to an older team. She had to do a lot of growing to make it on the new team. The cheer level is harder and most of these girls were 17-18 years old. She is only 10. She had to get her back handspring polished, and she was learning to fly.
She suits up, and off to the warm-up mats she goes. I had not seen her perform this year, and I was nervous. I was nervous because she wasn't nervous. She was zoning much like Audrey had. She had to. She was the smallest on the team so she stood out. There was no time for fear, insecurity, or even doubt. She had to stick everything!
Her team hits the floor with all the energy of a carpet bombing. The thunderous bass hits and syncopated movements of her team were awe inspiring. Through the opening dance, all is well. 1st back handspring was perfect. It was time for 1st stunt groups. Up she went. Stuck it! Down she went, time for stunt group 2. Up she goes. Sticks it, and was able to flash the look of a hardened cheer leader. Flawless form. Perfect point. Eye wink. [Insert twinkle in eye here].
After the battle they get the rest of the day off. It was time to hit the resort's indoor water park. Time to wind down. We hit the water slides. He hit the wave pool. I had to de-stress the girls. Katelyn and Audrey both needed to get the seriousness of competition out of their head and focus on having fun.
On Monday I'm a little sore. I must be getting old. My back is killing me from all the activity. My neck is sore from hoisting the girls on my shoulders to wade through the crowds.
It is all a part of a weekend that has up's and down's.
I am just a parent on the side lines. I enjoy that the girls enjoy what they do in their free time. I hate those who push their kids into something like this because they secretly want to live through their children.