Sitting alone at my house, my phone buzzed with a message from one of my cheerleading teammates to our team group chat. It was a video she made filled with moments from our season, with our song, The Climb by Miley Cyrus. Watching all the memories play out filled me with sadness as tears flooded my eyes. I remembered all the times we stood together, side by side, singing this song before competitions.
Now, we can only communicate online.
This is the longest break from cheerleading I have had since joining the sport in 2018. I’m not used to not being able to see my teammates. No one is. Our only way of being together safely now is through virtual practices and chat messages.
Like many other athletes right now, my season has been cut short. Major league sports seasons have been cancelled and the IOC has postponed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to take place summer 2021.
I never thought a world-wide pandemic, COVID-19, would be the cause of me not being able to be in the cheer gym with my team. Like many other businesses, the gym I cheer at has closed among the outbreak. Our end-of season events have been postponed and we can’t go to practice.
In the cheer community, March 15, was the day we received the news we were dreading. It was confirmed that the Cheerleading Worlds, held in Orlando, Florida, would be postponed. While this was expected, the message from my coach still brought tears to my eyes. It brought out many emotions for all the athletes who have put everything they have into the sport.
As of now, there are no new dates set. Options are still being explored by organizers who are closely following guidance from the CDC and WHO.
But this strange time has reminded me how lucky I am to be healthy and able enough to be a part of this sports family.
We bond as a team and become a second family. Sometimes family members get frustrated with each other and that is not foreign to cheer either.
We are all equally determined to achieve greatness, driven to be the best we can. When practices don’t go as smoothly as we would like, it’s easy to let emotions consume us but it can also pull us together. Right now, there is nothing I want more than to be back in the gym with my sisters – even for those hard practices.
I understand the importance of the situation of course. Being physically distanced is what needs to be done for the health and safety of everyone. But knowing this doesn’t make it hurt any less.
Cheer is a way I take my mind off stresses in my life. It is a safe place for me and many other athletes. Not having this outlet has been hard to deal with especially in a time of uncertainty.
No matter what we go through, every athlete I step on the mat with, and my coaches, have my back. If I was hanging from the edge of a cliff, with only a rope holding me from falling, they would be there to hold the rope, no matter how painful.
But just because we aren’t in the gym, doesn’t mean we aren’t together. I am used to seeing my team twice a week and four times a week during competitions. There are times when I see them more than I see my biological family. At this point we’re not sure when we might see each other again and we don’t know what the rest of our season will look like.
When our coach messaged us to tell us about competitions being postponed, she told us how proud she was of us. Telling us she hopes we will remember the memories and achievements we have had as a team.
“The season isn’t over. We have two options, to let this ruin you, or to let this fuel you. To become a stronger team and better athletes,” she wrote in her message. “When faced with a difficult situation, you always have a choice.”
While nothing is certain at the moment, in cheer and in life, I have seen my cheer family come together to lift each other up. We all have the same goal, to get back in the gym even if it’s only for one last practice.
One thing I have been told over and over is, anything can happen in cheer. It’s not over until it’s over.