Updated: Oct 25
By Guest Blogger Addison LaFountain
With so much happening in our world right now, everyone is facing challenges. For cheer parents, there are unique situations: the 2019-20 season coming to an abrupt end, and new perspectives: a child making their dream team but not the position of their dreams.
Addison LaFountain's parents have been guiding her though these tough times and kept her moving forward (literally), despite this being, in her own words, the worst time of her life.
Addison wanted to create something in recognition of World Mental Health Awareness month. A regular content provider on the CheerWeek App, she shared this deeply personal experience in today's featured CheerWeek video.
It's a raw, brave piece that I felt deserved a broader audience so am sharing it with you all.
"Sometimes when I’m sad I write as an outlet. Let's just say that my journal has been exploding lately because, let’s be honest, I’ve pretty much been sad and cried every single day since last March when quarantine started.
As if 2020 couldn’t possibly have gotten worse for me, fate laughed and said “Hold my Starbucks.” Corona stopped my season last February. I took the mat for the last time at NCA before the world shut down. Back then I had no idea how much not having cheer would affect me.
What I did know is, I missed my team, friends, coaches and I even missed being yelled at and full outs. I cried myself to sleep most nights because I just missed being normal. I was lost without cheer. I was sad, heartbroken and I started to lose myself. I prayed everyday to be back in the gym.
Cheer has been my “constant” my entire life since I was six years old. I was allowed to “mourn the loss,” as my parents said, because that’s what it felt like when cheer died in March and worlds was cancelled in April. I was depressed and didn’t really have anything in life that made me want to wake up in the morning. I missed going to school, cheer and just having a reason to be happy.
Instead of just sulking, my parents made me “move my body” every day. I’d take a walk around the neighborhood, bike ride, jump on my trampoline or just go play outside. At first I hated it but after a few weeks of quarantine I was so bored I actually thought with all this extra time I could get so much better.
Looking back now my parents knew I was not myself. They saw me becoming more and more depressed, not even wanting to leave my bedroom and thought by forcing me to move my body it might help me snap back into myself. They say those endorphins can be a magical thing. It wasn’t magical but I did start stretching every single day, worked out and tumbled on my AirTrack. I posted in our team group hoping to show the coaches how much I was doing at home to show them how bad I wanted to be back in the air and flying again.
After 70 days, I finally stepped back into my home away from home at East Celebrity Elite in Tewksbury. I had missed it so much but was able to go in and tape sessions for quarantine classes. As soon as I walked through the door and smelled the gym, walked by our championship banners and put my hands on that blue mat I felt alive for the first time in a long time I was FINALLY happy.
Or so I thought.
Tryouts happened. I made Bombshells for round three. Then it was time for choreography. During choreography I was switched in and out of flying. That had happened before so I didn’t really think anything of it. The routine always changes.
But as each practice went on, I started to get more and more scared about being taken out of my spot as a flyer. My anxiety started to build up as I switched in and out of flying.I even thought about quitting. People who don’t cheer are probably thinking “Get over it.” But flyers, whose wings were clipped before me, are probably thinking “I know how it feels honey” and might even wipe the single tear rolling down their cheek for me.
Flying is who I am. It's what I do. It's been what I do since I was six years old. I didn’t see myself being taken out of flying; I didn’t see it coming and I think that makes it harder.
Since I wasn’t able to compete after NCA I didn’t have closure. The season suddenly came to a stop and I didn’t know my days as a flyer had as well.
I would give anything to go back and have the “Ready to throw up feeling” as you walk on the mat for worlds as an elite flyer. I’m broken but let’s be honest I’ve been broken for awhile now. A piece of me died when cheer did in March of 2020.
My mom once told me that three of the most important words in life are “It goes on.” It may not feel that way when you’re in the middle of a broken heart like I am right now but I guess, eventually, I’ll adjust.
When I started on ‘shells I switched in and out of Maddy Brum’s spot. People even joked and called me “Addie Brum” since I was filling her magical cheer shoes when she graduated. Big shoes to fill, I mean the biggest of all shoes! She’s a legend and I wanted to be just like her.
Maddy was a leader, a true leader who inspired us all in 2019 when I became a world champion. I knew I’d never fly as good as her but having the opportunity to learn from her truly inspired me to want to be as good as I could be.
But I had no idea I’d be taken out of the air just a single season after filling her shoes.
I felt broken when they told me that I was no longer flying. As soon as my coach said “Addie” and called me over, I knew it was that moment I would lose it all. I can’t describe the pain. It was like I couldn’t breathe, my body went numb and I just wanted to run away. I almost did something really stupid and I just wanted to quit. To be honest it was hard not to quit. I no longer felt good enough for my team, my coaches, my parents and myself.
This was the cherry on top of a horrible year for me, a year that I hid from most people because I didn’t want to admit to anyone that I wasn’t strong enough to handle the new normal life.
I went from being depressed to hitting rock bottom. It’s been three weeks, 24 days, 567 hours, 34,073 minutes; 2,044,417 seconds since my heart was shattered. My first practice back I asked to tumble the whole practice because I’m not in the stunts and would rather do something than nothing at all.
So I tumbled in a different gym, which doesn’t sound too bad but for me I felt like I was isolated and not even part of the team. Luckily for me it only took that one practice to wake me up and realize I’m lucky to be a ‘Shell and I will never be a quitter. That lonely practice was exactly what I needed because it made me realize I don’t want to be alone without my team. I want to help my team in any way possible. I want to be an inspiration and not a quitter.
I asked one of my coaches if I could start front spotting a group with our youngest flyer who’s nervous and has been struggling. She's young and just barely made the team this year due to her age. You know what? I was that girl once. I could see in her eyes that she’s not confident yet and I’ve also been there. It can be very overwhelming to be the youngest on an incredible team with so much talent, learning from the best coaches in the business with the expectation of working hard.
I know that first hand since that was me my first year on ‘Shells.
But this would be the day that I took the opportunity to still become the inspiration I always wanted to be and realized I don’t have to do it from the air. I was actually doing a hell of a good job from the ground. I was giving pointers of what it was like when I was up there. I was seeing her mistakes and encouraging her. It felt good and I hope that I can continue to feel good.
I may not be flying like my mentor Maddy Brum but I can tell you, I can still be known as Addie Brum because I learned more than just flying from Maddy. I learned how to be a leader and always think of the team first. This experience took a lot from me but it also made me realize how lucky I am to still be part of this sport and experience.
I’m no quitter but I am human and I am sensitive and I hate being disappointing to anyone, especially myself. It took me hitting rock bottom to start climbing back up. It took support from home, from cheer and from myself. It took a coach’s meeting, a talk with a tumbling mentor, a message from a former ‘Shell who had been through the exact same thing and took the time to reach out.
And it took a long look in the mirror for me to realize that I’m not just a flyer, I’m not just a tumbler, I’m not just anything. I’m more than “just” and from the ground I can still be the leader I was inspired to be.
My wings were in a stunt for nine years but now I’m spreading them from the ground to hopefully inspire future ‘Shells.
What I’ve learned from all of this is, you can love something and devote your entire life to it and when that ends, your heart will break. You can give up or step up! Some people may not agree but I would have to agree to disagree with them when I tell you that your heart can break from something that isn’t human. It did not take a boy or a girl, it didn’t even take a human relationship to be the first thing to break my heart.
Cheerleading will always be my first love. I should not be surprised in the least that it is also my first heartbreak. Let me tell you I don’t know what’s worse: a broken heart or broken wings but I will tell you either way when it comes to life, well, my moms right.
IT GOES ON!"
The Centers for Disease Control is reporting an increase in mental health problems due to Covid 19. Here are several ways to cope with stress and promote wellbeing.
Pause. Breathe. Notice how you feel. Take breaks from upsetting content Take care of your body Reach out and stay connected Seek help if overwhelmed or unsafe
If you are in need of immediate help, please call 911.
Crisis Text Line can be accessed by texting BRAVE to 741-741
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Download CheerWeek for free to hear "Broken Wings" by Addison: https://cheerweek.app.link/