My two children are active in athletics. Both Ethan and Rachel participated in everything they could in elementary school. Ethan just slid into a baseball routine in Junior High, with the exception of one year playing competitive basketball. Rachel still participated in anything and everything she could in Junior High sports. Now in High School, the single sport path is alive and well for both of them. Ethan remains in baseball, and his Senior season begins in about a month. Rachel opted for Cheerleading. Yes, I called it a sport. Yes, I'm serious. She's always getting kicked, kneed, elbowed, knocked in the head and any other weird injury you can think of. Plus, she does weights after school and during the summer. So yes, cheerleading is a sport, and a very competitive one at that.
I love watching these two participate in the sports they love. I get to as much as I can, simply to make sure they know I care and support their endeavors. With baseball, that has meant a lot of travel, both in state and across this great country. Cheer hasn't had many travel options, and it may not in the near future, but long term future...who knows. But, the travel for cheer did finally happen this month. March 8th to be exact.
State Spirit Competition for Wyoming High Schools was held up in Casper on March 8th. Every single school in 3A and 4A, plus one 2A school converged at the Casper Events Center for one afternoon of cheer and dance. Sitting there, supporting my daughter, I couldn't help but think about how all the other parents there were just as proud of their daughter/son as Janda and I were. And, the more I watched, the more proud I was of my daughter. The more in awe I was of how athletic her and her peers are. But there was one more observation, again of the parents. Man, there are some competitive cheer mom's out there!
Top to bottom, these teens poured their hearts out, leaving everything in the hearts of the judges. All overcame injury (only one on the mat that day), individual adversity and doubt, team challenges, and one team even overcame tragedy (more on that later). At the end of the night, awards were handed out for All-State Dance, All-Cheer, and All-State co-ed (first time guys were recognized in Wyoming). Then, team awards. Some categories had 4 trophies, some 3, a couple 2 and even one category had 1 trophy (the only 2A school represented that day). While all the scores were tallied, every single cheerleader converged on the mat and waited, anxiously to hear the results and get a trophy...hopefully.
This is where the, "overcoming tragedy," part comes into play. Kelly Walsh (Casper) was at the top of their game. Everybody in the building knew what they had gone through (small state, tight knit cheer community, word spreads quickly). The East High cheer squad honored their team one night by wearing green ribbons in their hair (guys had bandannas). A team should never have to go through what K-W had. On their way out, the dance team carried their fallen team mate out with them by way of a banner. Her picture and words of love on the banner, they made sure she was present as well. They did all they could to honor Aurora. These girls gave every ounce they could. Every bead of sweat, ounce of blood, ache in joints and muscles were felt by them and on display for all to see. At the end of the routine, with their fingers point to the sky, each girl broke down and cried, with good reason. They did it! They finished their season, one down and a team still in shock with their loss of a friend and teammate.
Day over, dinner consumed and back at the hotel. Janda and I turned in for the night. The next morning I woke and made the trek to the breakfast serving area. I tend to mind my own business in these areas simply because I haven't had any coffee fully consumed. I won't be anti-social, but try to mind myself. I also have a bad habit of eaves dropping on loud conversations. This morning was no different, loud conversation easy to be heard in the entire room. Good morning, Angry Mom!
As I listened to the conversation, I am amused, bewildered and eventually disgusted with the discussion. First, mom and family discussed how unfair the judging was (national judges flown in from around the country, not local). Mom was upset that her daughters school didn't place. Okay, I get that, but in the spirit of good sportsmanship, being angry about it achieves nothing. She also believed one school should have won over the other. Problem, said schools are in different classifications (3A and 4A respectively) and did not compete against each other. Lastly, the part that disgusted me was her disdain for K-W. She didn't think it was fair of them to carry a banner out of, "That girl," and gain sympathy from everybody including the judges. "They shouldn't have done that. It was an unfair advantage for every team and that's why they won." Okay, this is where I took exception. Mom is now upset about a team rallying around a fallen teammate. Upset these girls took all of their emotions of losing a teammate/friend/family member and went all out to honor her through their routine. C'mon lady! You're picking on a dead girl!
This is when I reflected on society as a whole. Are we so focused on ourselves that we refuse to see a bigger picture? Are we so arrogant that we believe only our kin should win? Do we have a hard time recognizing the good in others performances? What are we doing to ourselves, our kids and our friends if we continually focus on ourselves and how we feel we've been wronged? How low will we stoop to justify our words of disdain/displeasure over outcomes? Sadly, too many would do the same as this angry mom, be upset over a team grieving the death of one of their own, and doing so publicly during the biggest moment of these girls lives.
Congrats, K-W, you deserved it. Congrats East HS on your accomplishments. South HS, props to you as well. And, to all the other schools that placed, job well done. For those that didn't place, your work did not go unnoticed. Well, it didn't go unnoticed by most of us anyway.