Becky was the kind of kid who liked to do many things: soccer, softball, ballet, tap, even Irish step dancing. She was pretty good at everything she tried but she didn’t love to do any one thing.
Until she spent a week at a local summer cheer camp ten years ago this week.
As a working mom (I’ve been a full-time reporter for more than 25 years) I was looking for something Becky and her younger brother and sister could do during the summer. I’d hired a college intern at the newspaper to babysit during my day shifts but I wanted to add a week or two of day camp into the mix (depending on what I could afford).
My son was easy. Anything Lego, basketball or art oriented would do.
In the past, Becky had been satisfied with Girl Scout camp, Girls Inc. and sports camps but when I picked up a flier for a cheerleading camp I thought it might be something different.
I was a cheerleader in high school but in the 30 years since my last straddle jump (which are now called toe touches) something called All Star cheering had emerged. I’d soon learn that it was a high bred of cheering.
I’ve spent the last dozen and a half years explaining to people that “No, she doesn’t cheer for football or basketball teams” and “Yes, it is a sport.”
Becky, top row-right, as a CHEERSPORT champion
On the first day of camp, she could do a cartwheel but not much else. When parents were invited on Friday to watch a routine the kids practiced all week, Becky was an All Star. She still couldn’t do much more than a cartwheel but something had changed in her. Watching her smile through that routine, I couldn’t stop smiling myself.
That’s because there was something different about cheering that all those other sports and activities she’d tried before hadn’t touched in her. She was excited, elated even, and after six hours in a hot cheer gym, she spent the night on the front yard practicing the day’s lessons and she couldn’t wait to get up the next day and do it again.
Becky had found her passion.
When the week finished, we learned that there were All Star cheerleading teams that practiced all summer and they were looking for a strong back.
In the years since that first cheer camp, Becky is still the strongest back on whatever team she’s on. Flyers have claimed her for their own and she’s proud that she’s never dropped one, preferring to take an injury herself before letting her flyer touch a mat.
I can’t help but think of all the cheer camps this summer that will help girls like Becky find their passion. And I can’t stop smiling.