I enjoyed my time in high school. I was a decent student (who really blossomed academically in college) whose friendships crisscrossed into several different cliques without (I think, though others may define me differently) falling into any one particular group myself. I tried a lot of different activities – making costumes for the school plays my freshman year; managing the men’s volleyball team and playing volleyball for three years as well; and serving as a member of a group that was formed to address smoking among students. Outside of school-related activities, I helped launch and run the town’s teen center, providing a drug- and alcohol-free alternative to kids. I spent a LOT of time at that teen center, and loved every minute of it.
I could probably write an entire post just on the positive impact the teen center had on my life, but the single most important school-related activity in terms of its impact on my life was my time on the cheerleading squad.
Despite my years of dance experience, being a part of cheerleading didn’t cross my mind. I actually tried out for the squad as an afterthought. In my freshman year, my lab partner happened to mention tryouts for next year’s basketball season were that week and would I pleeeeeeease go with her because she didn’t want to do it by herself. I remember shrugging and agreeing to go. Of course, I was hooked with the first go-fight-win. I started off on the JV squad my sophomore year and cheered for Varsity as a junior and senior.
During the first three years of high school, it seemed I played largely a supporting role. I was behind the scenes when making the actors’ costumes and behind the stat book as a volleyball manager. Of course, there was the very literal supporting role of cheerleader on the sidelines. And, because I wasn’t that great at volleyball (despite my love of the sport) and didn’t get much playing time, I often joked that I was really just a cheerleader for the volleyball team, too, always on the bench rooting for my teammates.
As a senior I was chosen as a captain of the cheerleading squad. It was the first time someone noticed leadership qualities in me, even before I saw myself as a leader. This had a huge impact on me. I wasn’t the pretty, well-dressed popular girl that would be the perfect fit for a stereotypical cheerleading captain. My coach and peers saw something in me then, and I’m forever grateful for that experience.
It was then I made the transition. Cheerleader to cheerLEADER.
From there, I took on a Board position at the teen center. I went on to become a Resident Assistant for three years in college, responsible for a floor of students and often the entire residential complex. As an adult, I served on the steering committee of the Young Women’s Leadership Program and on the Board of Directors for the Connecticut Chapter of the National Organization for Women. I attribute going out for any of these positions to the confidence I gained after leading the cheer squad that year.
When I graduated, I said I’d get back into cheerleading as a coach, when the time was right. I’m now entering my third year of coaching, coming full circle to where it began: as a high school cheerleader.