Sunday, November 4, 2018


Keeping score. That is what spectators do at high school athletic events, right? Football? 14-0 or 24-7. Basketball? 62-60. Baseball? 5-1. Soccer or Hockey? 2-0. Depending on the sport, the scores are different. One point. Three strokes. Seven points. Fifteen points.

How about three minutes? Just three minutes.

I am one of many people who attend sporting events. I have been one of the parents supporting his child on the football field. I have been the scorekeeper and announcer for baseball and football games. At least one day a week, I am the teacher watching his students challenge obstacles and demonstrate determination outside of the classroom. I have been one of the many people who watch the score to check the time which remains in a close game, one of those stadium coaches who computes the scores needed to secure a win or mount a comeback. In the past I have become so caught up in the game at hand that I occasionally miss another athlete who is there at the game but not in the game, an athlete who cheers with the crowd but is not part of the crowd, an athlete who exists in the space between the game and our spectatorship. 

The cheerleader.

Seeing the cheerleaders on the sidelines for football and basketball games and leading cheers during pep rallies has become entirely too commonplace for many people. I personally know so little about their efforts behind the scenes, but I do know that cheering is so much more than simply tossing on a uniform, smiling for the crowds, and encouraging the crowd to support the team which is playing. 

CCHS cheerleaders cheer for the football team on a cold Friday evening 
even though they have their own regional competition the following morning.

I sat at the West Virginia Cheering Regional this past Saturday morning at Wheeling Park High School. This was the first time I attended a cheering competition since my basketball team had attended competitions back in North Carolina. Sadly, I wish I had chosen to attend these competitions more frequently.

These competitions are the cheerleaders' "games," their moments on the stage, the times when the spotlight focuses on them and all of the hard work they have invested. The absolutely admirable part is that the routines they present are only three minutes long! Three minutes of breathtaking flips, tosses, dance moves, and unbridled spirit! I cannot begin to ascertain the amount of time cheerleaders invest in their routines. How long does a cheerleader spend honing their ability to perfect back flips, mastering routines with their team, timing the catches and the tosses? How much time do they spend far removed from the sidelines of games practicing, practicing, and practicing for these three minutes? I cannot imagine.

How much time does it take to do this to perfection?
I saw Danielle standing proudly at center court on Saturday. She is one of my wonderful students in AP English this year, a senior who chose to come to Central Catholic High School last year when Bishop Donahue High School closed. She is the solitary senior on the team this year, a young woman who has made cheerleading a huge part of her life. There she stood hoisting that regional championship. I have to admire a young person who has been through such a challenging change in her high school career yet still maintains a spirited and enthusiastic dedication to a sport which transcends the schools where she cheers.
Danielle hoisting the regional plaque for all to see.
I sat at the top of the bleachers on Saturday with Boyd Bibey and his father Lance, both there to support Lane, their sister and daughter. Lane's mom Joyce sat down at the bottom of the bleachers amid the throng of Central faithful who came to support their cheerleaders. In a random moment, I asked Boyd how many points he scored as a varsity basketball player in high school. He told me with absolutely clarity "980 points." That is astronomical to me, a terrible basketball player, one who only scored two darn points in his entire one year career. I asked Boyd this because we sometimes look at athletes regarding the number of points they score and their wins versus losses. How will we measure what Danielle, Lane, their team, and all of the other cheerleaders around the city and state have accomplished? 

We must search beyond those three minutes. Imagine looking at an iceberg. Ninety percent of the iceberg is under the water. Ninety percent! We can see only ten percent of this huge mass, and yet we marvel and wonder at the entire iceberg, recognizing what is beneath the surface. Perhaps in our day and age of tracking points, hits, yardage, time remaining on the clock, and wins or losses, we should occasionally look to the cheerleaders for a remarkable example of dedication encapsulated in three intense minutes. Sometimes this effort goes unrecognized by masses who clamor for the numbers in high school athletics. Imagine a world in which everyone found a craft or passion for which they would labor so diligently and passionately in preparation for his or her three minute performance.

Central Catholic High School -WV Regional Champions
Good luck at the state championship December 8th.

A special thanks to Doug and Christy Costain for the fantastic pictures!

Thank you again to everyone for your support of my book My Corner of the World. All of the positive feedback is greatly appreciated. If you live out of state and are interested in a signed copy, there is a link at the top of my website. I am always humbled to sign anyone's book. Just contact me if we need to connect to do so.

No comments:

Post a Comment