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Cheer Leaders: Are You One for Your Team? 

It was the last leg of a high school relay race. I was in our team’s anchor position. Our team’s 3rd position runner had a slight lead and was approaching the zone where the baton would be handed off to me. I was in position with my hand back, getting ready to explode around the track and suddenly, I hear a groan and gasp from the crowd. I whipped around. Our runner had dropped her baton! After I joined in the group groan, I quickly called to her and chanted, “Forget that! Pick it up! Go girl go! You’re ok!”  All the other anchor runners had dashed off flying toward the finish line when I felt the slap of the baton in my hand. I bolted. Nearing the first corner, I began gaining on the pack of 7. I calculated that there was a huge gap between me and the first place runner, let alone the last person in the pack. I went for it anyway. I passed the back of the pack, then, the middle with a shrinking amount of track left before the tape. The back of the first place runner was still way ahead of me, I thought. Some doubt began to take up residency in my head. That’s when I heard it. My parents’ voices above the din cheering me on. “Come on Karla! Go! You can do it! They kept shouting it. I remember hearing it and being fueled with something I can’t explain. Then, like the famous racehorse, Seabiscuit, coming from behind, I found another gear. The tape at the finish line was a few strides away as I pulled up beside the runner in first place. Blazing across the finish line I raised my arms in victory.
Cheerleaders. We had them in high school. We saw them during March Madness. Break down the word and take a look—Cheer Leaders. It’s someone we all need at some point in our lives. Someone who steps up to lead the charge in the supreme belief that we will succeed and most importantly, that they believe we have the power to do so. What does it mean to have someone be our cheer leader? What does it do for us to have someone believe in us and our pursuit, our quest, our challenge that we are engaged in to win, to vanquish, or to survive?
Cheer Leaders are more than just providers of a surface level, positive-thinking lift. True cheer leaders are those who see more in us than we see in ourselves sometimes. They aren’t listening to those saboteurs that are trying to shred our self confidence. You know, those voices in our head, that keep us from taking risks and pressing on through the tough stretches in a play to “save us from being humiliated” if we fall short. That’s where the Cheer Leaders come in if you’re lucky enough to have them and invite them into your life. They turn up their volume to drown out the mental “you’re not good enough” and other negative chatter. Cheer Leaders drive us to do our best. They hang in there with us to the end.
Lest you believe that Cheer Leading is only considered useful if a win results, let me be clear: I did not win that race. I came in 2nd. A very, very close 2nd. That was my victory. Could I have blamed the girl that dropped the baton? Could I have just given up and achieved less? Yes, I could have but I didn’t. She picked up the baton and drove it into my hand as fast as she could with me cheering her on. She kept going. I was responsible for my own leg of the race to make the best of what I was handed. And I believe to this day, that part of why I showed as well as I did was because my folks and others were there cheering me on in that moment when I felt doubt. The other part? It was finding the cheer leader within me. That part of me that spoke up and chose to believe and join in the shout: “Go Karla go! You can do it!”
When we find the cheer leader in us - that part of us that believes we can and we will go for it - no matter how it turns out in the end, we can exhale knowing we dared to get in the ring. We hung in there and gave it our best thinking and our best self so that, as President Theodore Roosevelt said, “our place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”
Who have you been a Cheer Leader for lately?

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