My first exposure to cheerleading was when my mom signed me up for a camp at our local community college. It consisted of learning a half time dance and performing it at a basketball game or something of that nature. I remember having fun but what I remember was actually a who. Her name was Debbie and she was unlike any other adult I had met in my whole 9 years of life. She could do a back walkover and she was beautiful, athletic and bubbly. Four years later I tried out for my first cheerleading team and much to my pleasure that same amazing women became my coach.
While gymnastics came a little more naturally to my personality cheerleading certainly did not. I was quiet and serious and only had a few close friends. The thought of performing in front of the same peers who would see me later in class felt utterly terrifying. Somehow the fun found me despite my social anxiety and I started to set goals in this new arena and take ownership of it.
Our team was practicing over at Debbie’s house before school had officially started and afterward we all came inside to cool down and wait for our parents to pick us up. Debbie entertained us with an old picture from her college cheer days while we waited. There was so much energy captured within the borders of that one frame; a sea of green and yellow fans at Autzen Stadium, a three person tall pyramid in the background but all I could see was her personality and smile. It still brings a lump to my throat to think of how much seeing one picture can change one person’s path. Debbie inspired me just by being herself from the moment I met her and although we only worked together a short time she was the inspiration for me spending the next 6 years in cheer.
While Debbie may have been my inspiration for cheerleading, my high school coach Barb was really the one that helped me reach the goal of college cheer. She is a human that so profoundly shaped me in my youth that she at the very least deserves her own post.