I can’t believe it’s that time again — time to head to Las Vegas to defend that championship title at the JAMZ National Cheerleading Competition on Friday, Jan. 19!
Last year, the Oakdale Stampede Varsity cheer competition team went to Vegas to compete against cheer teams from all different levels and divisions from all over the United States in the hopes of putting Oakdale on the map.
Well, in spite of a stacked division, our Oakdale girls brought home those coveted National Championship jackets and I think the parents cried harder and longer than the girls because we were so proud.
I remember how incredible it felt to watch girls I’d coached since they were rookies take that stage and blow everyone away. The moment when they were named national champions, there was a lot of “ugly crying” going on. As long as I live, I’ll never forget the overwhelming pride and joy of that moment.
But now, we’re going to see if we can recreate history as the Oakdale Stampede prepares to take two teams to Nationals in the hopes of bringing home that win yet again.
My daughter is part of that winning original team and her nerves are my nerves as she prepares with her cheer sisters to defend their title. I’ve felt her frustration after a tough practice where everything seemed to go wrong and I’ve felt her pride when everything seemed to go perfectly.
The ups and downs are part of the package of any competitive sport but as parents we feel those hills and valleys far more acutely because if the truth were known, we just want them to be happy.
But something I learned a long time ago from so many years of coaching countless little girls — anything worth having must be earned.
It’s not enough to simply want it.
Everyone wants the glory but not everyone wants to put in the blood, sweat and tears to earn it.
Competitive cheer performances are measured in heart, points, deductions and skill. It’s two minutes, 30 seconds of soul-pounding, electrifying motion as a team of athletes try their hardest to shine more brightly than any team before or after them.
There are no do-overs.
Whatever is going to happen, is going to happen and that’s when, as a parent, you hope and pray that the strength of muscle memory will kick in if they run into an issue.
Sometimes situations arise that you couldn’t have planned for — accidents and sickness come to mind — but that’s when you hope as a parent that you’ve taught your athlete how to handle disappointment with grace instead of blame.
But assuming everything goes as planned and your athlete takes that stage, blinded by the lights and the roar of the crowd, you hold your breath as they tumble, stunt and dance their way into the hearts of the judges, all in the hopes of shining just a little more brightly than their competition.
However, as most parents know, there is no one who could ever shine more brightly than their little star — even if they stumbled, missed a count, or just plain fell apart at the last minute because a parent’s love is blind.
I am already so proud of these girls — many of whom have been in my home numerous times, slept over, raided my kitchen, and swam countless hours in my pool — because they are doing something that takes more bravery than most people will ever know.
Win or lose, our girls are going to get on that stage and show Vegas what the heart of a champion looks like — because that’s just what Oakdale does.
Kim Van Meter is a former staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader. She continues to contribute occasional stories and columns.