Even if your kid doesn’t make the team, there’s a whole community cheering them on
Story by Lauren Green
In Texas, there usually comes a day when summer turns mean. By the time August wraps up, I am left feeling a little mean myself. And if I’m honest, a little ashamed, too. Because unlike our garbage collectors, construction workers and first responders, I spend a good part of my day enjoying the greatest of all inventions: air conditioning.
Being stuck at a red light with Popsicles in my trunk is about the worst of my heat-dome hardships. Even still, the second half of summer punched harder than normal this year and left me feeling defeated. But victory is in sight; I spotted the bus.
Not long ago, just before the sun transformed our street into a scorching griddle, I took my dog for a walk. A school bus passed by, taking a practice run through our neighborhood. When I was a little girl, I would have sulked the rest of the day, knowing the start of school was just around the corner. But now, seeing that sunshine-yellow bus has put a pep in my step.
With fall coming up to the plate, buses are out en masse. Kids are once again following weekly schedules in school. And in practices, too. Somewhere out there, a 4-year-old is learning a drill with her first soccer team. An 8-year-old is swimming toward his first timed finish line. And a 16-year-old is donning her very first varsity uniform. But some kids are enduring an entirely different kind of practice — the kind that comes after not making the team.
Just before starting high school, I wanted to be a cheerleader more than anything. To prepare for those summer tryouts, I worked hard. I honed my Herkies, cranked up my claps and stretched every muscle I could think of in order to get my body into some semblance of the splits. But it wasn’t enough.
One rainy Sunday afternoon, the results were posted on our gym door. As desperately as I wanted to see my name on that list, it wasn’t there. Who was I supposed to be in high school now? Obviously, not a cheerleader.
Identity is important. When my family moved here 17 years ago, one thing we noticed was Southlake’s affinity for yard signs. Football Team. Carroll Medical Academy. Cross Country.
At the time, I thought those signs were a bit self-promoting and a little silly. Of course, when my kids were old enough to join clubs and teams, I was the first in line to buy them. Now, I concede they are a fun way to promote activities and raise money, but at the same time, I can’t help but think about the kids who may be hurting from a fresh wound of not making the cut.
They are, at least, getting valuable practice in perseverance. Once, in a local yoga class, I was holding a tough pose. The instructor guided us through the final seconds.
Five…four…three…two…TEN…nine…. When she started over with 10, I lost my mind. The instructor continued the countdown while I wobbled and cursed under my breath, seething resentment. She finally released us and tenderly remarked, “Isn’t this the way of the world?” She was right. We practice hard, but even so, things don’t always end up the way we envision them. There’s no getting around occasional defeat.
Not making the cheerleading squad made me stronger. At least that’s the story I told myself all those years ago. Today, I’m not entirely convinced. To be honest, I think being a cheerleader would have made me pretty darn strong. But obviously, evidenced by the fact that I’m not still crying outside that gymnasium door, life kept moving forward and I along with it.
While on that aforementioned walk, just after the school bus passed by, my new puppy, Ruby, made a pit stop on a stump near the sidewalk. At the time, we were on No. 27 of 100-degree-plus days around here.
Rain was a distant memory, and as such, our neighborhood greenspace was brown and brittle. But encircling that stump, oblivious to its challenging environment, was new growth. Glistening with dog pee, shoots had popped up in a most unexpected place. Life was moving forward.
Which emboldens me to suggest a new yard sign for our Dragon Den that simply reads Trying Out. I imagine we could all stick that one in our yard. If you, your child or your grandchild is on a new team this year, let’s celebrate! And if they didn’t make the cut, let’s remind them they are in good company. There’s a whole community still cheering them forward.
Lauren Green lives in Southlake with her husband. She cheers for all kids, not just the ones who make the team. You can reach her at email@example.com.