Almost 16 years ago I was attending my baby shower for our first child: A soccer girl!
I had already planned out her soccer career and she wasn’t even born yet. I pictured myself coaching her first soccer team, teaching her new skills in the backyard everyday after school, cheering her on, making the varsity team her freshman year in high school and even playing in the Olympics with the best soccer players in the world.
I even purchased a pink soccer ball and had everyone that attended my baby shower sign the ball with inspirational messages to my soccer girl.
Little did I know then, my hopes and dreams of raising the next Mia Hamm would turn into something that I never expected.
Growing up, I was the poster child for tomboys. My daily routine was playing in the mud, worms and challenging the neighborhood kids to every sport I knew of.
Gifted with extreme athletic ability, I excelled in most sports that I played. Sometimes I was even better than the boys. Soccer however had my heart.
There were times that I played on multiple teams at a time and I would consider soccer my best sport. I played on a travelling team ever since I can remember. We had multiple practices a week, lots of traveling to tournaments on weekends and many times we played three games in one day.
I would argue with anyone that "soccer is the toughest sport to play because you don’t get timeouts or breaks and all you wear is shin guards instead of big pads like football players wore."
I was soon going to find out that soccer is not the toughest sport in the world. That title would go to competitive cheer.
When my daughter was five years old, I realized she had a skill that made me start to rethink my soccer girl plans. We were at the park and she saw two girls run past her and doing tumbling skills across the grass. She looked my straight in the eye and said “I want to be able to do that mommy." I am not even sure what my response was but I know I kind of just blew it off.
A couple days later she called me into my room with the most excited look on her face. She asked me to “take a video mommy.” I pulled out my camera, hit record and right before my eyes she did a backbend then kicked over. I was stunned. I asked her how she learned to do that and she told me by watching a video. Wait! I wasn’t going to raise the next Mia Hamm. I had a Mary Lou Retton! But what next?
I signed her up for a tumble class at the first place I found that taught tumbling near our house. We walked in, she started her class and then five minutes later she was being taken out into the big gym where a cheer practice was being held. The cheer coach asked her to do a couple things and then out came the cheer coach and my daughter.
“ Hi. Are you her mom?” asked her coach. I smiled with a "yes" and then I was asked if my daughter wanted to join their competitive cheer Mini Level one team.
So many questions and thoughts started racing through my head. What is an actual competitive cheer team and what does Mini Level one mean?
I had signed her up to tumble, not cheer. I was not going to have a cheerleader. If I wasn’t going to have a soccer girl, I was going to have an Olympic gymnast! Cheerleading is for sissy girls. Then that blond haired blue-eyed girl looked up at me and said “Mommy please” and that request is the exact moment this soccer mom became a cheer mom like it or not.
I will never forget her first competition. I didn’t even know what competition looked like or what to expect. We were in an arena. This was huge compared to sitting on the sidelines in your lawn chair watching a soccer game. This was like a whole production. Team after team took the stage and everyone in the crowd cheered and clapped for them. Not just their gym's parents. I was in awe.
Then her team took stage. I saw her take her spot under those lights and I became overwhelmed with emotion.
The music started and they tumbled, lifted each other up off the ground, they danced, they did a pyramid and they entertained. It was a complete athletic show. Then it was over as fast as it started. I took a breath and started bawling.
Their routine was only two minutes and 30 seconds so as you hold your breath, you start to be filled with so much pride you just burst when they finish. I was probably the proudest parent in that moment. These we six to nine year olds and in my mind they looked like high school kids out there. My baby girl was a competitive cheerleader and I was hooked!
I now needed to learn everything about this sport I knew nothing about. I had to learn to do cheer hair and make-up. Throughout her years of leveling up I learned what skill sets were attached to each level. I learned what bids meant and that there were some famous cheer teams to look up to. I was determined to be the best cheer mom I could be (realizing sometimes that wasn’t always a good thing).