The Making of a Cheerleader

I was the girl who never made cheerleading.  No chance.  No hope.  No way.

My first cheerleading try-outs were spring of  seventh grade;  I didn’t even make the first cut with my brown horn rimmed glasses and frizzy long hair.  It would have helped if I’d been able to do the jumps or the splits.  Oh yes, and there was that small problem with my shorts creeping up in between my thighs….no easy way to yank those back down in front of a crowd of three hundred.  Maybe my unibrow was the big problem?  Could my life and destiny as a cheerleader been just one pair of tweezers away?  Probably not…and I wish I could say I had that cheerleader charisma to compensate for my lack of athletic ability…but as a 53-year-old woman I know there is nothing perky about me.

The photo of the Eighth Grade Pep Squad below speaks for itself…I’m Dip #2.  For the record I didn’t just pen in the comments.  One of my dip friends added the snarky bubbles way back at year-book signing in 1971, giving enduring evidence to the fact that I was a dork among dorks.

Arbor Heights Junior High - 1971
The Author is Dip #2

Back to the loser part…whether it is that I am delusional or the eternal optimist, I tried out for cheerleading both junior high years.  I just couldn’t take no for an answer.  Hope was on the horizon, and the world as I knew it changed at my first high school pep rally when the Westside High School Drill team came marching out in perfect unison.  Sweet!  No jumps, no kicks, and at any given moment at least one out of two feet was touching the ground.  I can do it!  The outfits were adorable, and the black and red pom poms were memorizing as they moved and swished in perfect symphony.  Sign me up!

But the cycle of rejection continued.  By junior year, the three girls on my try-out team all made the Westside High School Drill Squad.  I stood on the stair landing to see all their names written on the board…there must be some mistake?  What about me?  That heartache was further amplified by one of my teammates, with her new pom poms in hand, imitating me in front of a cafeteria of on-lookers.  (No, I’m not bitter!)

I just loved the fact that being a cheerleader was a free ticket to popularity, and I wanted to be ransomed from the smart-kid English Study Hall.  And maybe it just looked fun…girls just wanna have fun, and those girls always looked happy.  Nonetheless, I marched away from that dream after high school junior year try-outs, with head held high and imaginary pom poms swishing, and I never glanced back.

There are times in our lives, however, that we get exactly what we want but it looks completely different from what we ever imagined.  The card from Ally Traylor of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders that pointed out that I was Megan’s personal cheerleader has been a catalyst for much thought and soul-searching.  Ms. Traylor is right.  Being a caregiver is all about cheering.

You know, cheering isn’t just about winning.  Cheering is about giving full  support to your friend or family even as their world crumbles apart.  Cheering is about helping someone get up after they fall.  And cheering isn’t always about noise.  How many times have we seen a player injured on the field, and a crowd of 60,00 stands in breathless silence as the stretcher comes on field…all watching…all waiting.

Then comes the noise…Hell can not hold back the roar of a crowd as an injured player is moved off the field.  Those moments remind all of us that our value is not just in winning but in ‘being’.

As Megan Bosselman’s mom, I got the cheerleading job in 2004 when my girl was diagnosed with cancer.  The culmination of my head cheerleader status came in November of 2007 when Megan walked in from the ocean at Sanibel Island, sat on my beach chair and told me she was going to stop all treatment.  Without crying, I had to dig deep and somehow continue to cheer on her every decision.  I can still almost feel her sitting next to me as we listened to the ocean waves.  No words were exchanged, and cheering at that moment was holding her in silence.

Cheering also meant that I was going to support Megan and encourage her to finish strong, even though that Sanibel Island decision meant the touchdown would be eternity.

As a family, we continued to cheer through the last breath of her life.  On Easter Sunday as Megan labored to breathe in a coma, I kept reminding her that it was o.k. to “Let Go.”  “You can let go now, Megan….It’s o.k. to go…we love you…”  I gave my last cheer for my girl at 11:57 p.m. on Easter Sunday, 2008.

As the Dip#2 that never made an actual cheerleading squad, it still comes as a total surprise that the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders have come along side of me for this part of the game.  I’m so very grateful to Judy Trammell, Choreographer for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders and Mom- extraordinaire to Cassie Trammell, for coordinating all the DCC personal notes that have been instrumental in getting me back in the game of life.  As you might imagine, I needed some cheering after Megan died…but could never fathom God would send the often imitated but never equaled Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.  How did that conversation go down in heaven?  “Hey, you know Valerie…that Nebraska Cornhusker that knows nothing about football…needs to pick herself up and move on in life…let’s send the best team in the world….see what Kelli Finglass, Judy Trammell and the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders are doing this week?”

Though things I’ve never imagined have happened, the story gets even better.

Last week a box arrived from Kelli Finglass…just in time…and its contents included a desire fulfilled for both me and Megan.  Stay tuned…

Category: The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders - Making the Team

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4 comments

  1. As moms, we are all cheerleaders, and that cheerleading takes on different outward forms at different times. But the strength required is not found in our muscle groups or our sense of rhythm. It is an inner strength that only other moms can know. Megan was blessed to have had the greatest cheerleader ever in you. God’s timing is perfect. He knew your cheering would be needed not in middle school but many years later. Thank you for sharing another moving life lesson.

  2. Beautiful piece, Valerie. Thank you for sharing a different side of cheering that will not soon be forgotten.

  3. What can I say? Fabulous & inspiring! In your writing you are, in my opinion, validating Megan AND your life a hundred times over.
    Blessings,
    anne

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Article by: Valerie Bourdain