...we erupted, like a volcano...us parents...in an explosion of cheers, shouts, whistles and tears.
Let me explain.
This past Sunday my family gathered in the Hyperion Theater in Disney's California Adventure amusement park to watch my daughter and her Cheer Leading teammates perform during Nationals (a big end of season - for us - competition).
They were up against 8 other teams in their division.
Boy howdy were they nervous. And excited - practically crawling out of their skins.
Their first performance was fantastic. We parents were in awe.
But then again, the other teams - several of them - were also very good.
Us old-timers, the parents who've watched our daughters on that same stage over the previous 2 years remained wary. You see, their team changes every year. Some girls stayed the course and stuck it out for all 3 years (our 8th grade girls). But there is a rotation of new girls every year...it takes time to mesh and bond.
And...well...our team didn't 'place' the last two years. Actually, not even close.
Thus, we remained guarded...and hopeful: "Just let them place in the top 5...PLEASE!" Went the refrain through my head.
But Sunday's performance - wow - they were good.
The first round of judging was upon us - the round where they eliminate all but the top 3 and those teams that don't qualify for FINALS are free to go play in Disneyland for the rest of the night. Woohoo - the girls were excited for that, but they needed to get through this first.
And so the MC starts with the 9th place team. Our girls were good, we knew it wouldn't be them. When 8th and 7th and 6th were called, we were not surprised that their school wasn't called. But now, 5th place loomed...and again, it wasn't us.
Nor were we 4th.
From the mezzanine you could see it, the dawning of disbelief, as if they were saying, "Wait...what?" And then realization - they made FINALS.
The theater clears and I get a chance to speak to my daughter, "We were sure our performance was a solid 5th place...I can't believe we made FINALS!!", she blurts out. The judging notes showed they were not deducted any points, NOR did they receive any penalties (I have no idea what that means, but zero deductions and zero penalties is damn good).
The girls will get a chance to rest, eat and then...Two hours later we're back in the theater.
It is a much smaller gathering, since there are only 9 teams, split between 3 different divisions. Our girls were now up against just 2 other teams.
Pressure with a capital HOLY CRAP!
Our team is the first to perform. Seeing them at stage level makes it harder to see flaws...again, they looked awesome. Except - one stunt finishes a fraction early, the flyer descending from her perch (held up high by her base teammates) just a little too soon. We noticed it, so would the judges. Rumblings from other parents who were receiving frantic text messages from their daughters after they exited the stage added up to a disappointed team. There were other small mistakes, their hopes were dashed and the mood was glum...BUT...the girls were encouraging each other, supportive and clinging to the fact that they've gone from the bottom of the totem pole (literally) to the top tier with a view! Regardless of what would happen from this point forward, they made it to the final round.
THEY. MADE. FINALS!
It was a point I was prepared to hammer home to my daughter when they went home with the smallest trophy.
And so...there we were again...us parents swimming in anxiousness. Three teams filed onto the stage, then sat with hands clasped and heads bent waiting for the MC to announce 3rd place.
It wasn't our girls.
The look of relief on the girls faces was immense. Our team captain prepares to stand up and accept second place...but when the MC spoke the school name, it wasn't them.
It was only a heartbeat, but it felt like a million. They spring to their feet, all of them...clutching and hugging and not entirely sure if they heard right.
Honestly, no one heard the announcer bestow first place title upon our school...we parents were louder than the sound system.
Our girls worked so hard. They endured 2 years of hearing other teams tell them how much they sucked (yes, SOME cheerleaders fit the stereotype...but more than many don't - they are kind and supportive).
Their coaches worked them to the bone with drills and conditioning and do-overs of the routine ad nauseum. They got in their face, under their skin - some not nice things were said about the coaches in car rides to and from practice - oy. But in the end, my daughter says to me: "If they didn't push us like they did, we wouldn't have first place now."
Credit should, indeed, be shared. But...ultimately, it was our girls up there on that stage and they earned it with their sweat, tears, scrapes, sprains and only ONE call for paramedics during practice this past season! Yay!
Yes, this is a tough sport with serious injuries.
Congratulations girls, you are true athletes.