#navbar-iframe {display: none !important;}

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What I'm Learning from the Fort Mill Cheerleaders

cheerleading is no joke. 

i spend most weekends with the members of the Fort Mill High varsity cheerleading squad. at this point in the season, it has become a running joke about how little i know about cheer (aleyiah just laughs at me). it turns out their 'flips' and 'tumbles' all have cool names like  'back handspring' and 'standing tuck' and that standing tucks are really hard. i tell the girls as often as i can that 1) i would pay money to be able to do what they can do, but 2) i would literally break myself in two if i even attempted what they can do. so there's that. 

these girls are a wild and crazy bunch (just the way i like it) and they let me hang out with them and pray over them and laugh with them and have a blast with them. it brings me lots of joy, these 27 girls plus two coaches. it feels like family. being at practice and games feels like christmas morning. y'all, i have become so invested in the welfare of this team's success and these girls' lives. my heart, so full. 

one of my favorite parts about being an honorary cheerleader happens on competition days. one of their biggest tasks is to get mentally focused. coach jill calls it 'mental work' and the first time i saw it, i remember thinking that i was watching magic happen. it was beautiful. 

they finish stretching and coach turns on the routine music and each girl gets in her own space and they literally do the routine IN THEIR HEADS. they close their eyes, they don't move from their spot, and they replay their part of the routine in their minds. over and over and over again. and the best part is that they're shouting out encouragement to each other at each part where they know their teammate will need encouragement ("come on, maggie!" "you got this devon!" i look over and devon and maggie both have eyes closed too, doing nothing in that moment that would warrant shouts from their teammates. THESE GIRLS ARE LITERALLY PRACTICING ENCOURAGEMENT). 

i watch each girl's face and i can tell she's not there. she's focused, already out on the mat. the girls spend more time on competition days preparing themselves mentally instead of physically (can i tell you how much i love that? so much). and i just can't get over the critical advantage that gives them - over their opponents, over their own selves, over the doubts and anxieties and nerves they no doubt get. 

it's unlike anything i've seen. maybe it's because i grew up playing softball and that sport NEVER required anything like this. maybe it's because i'm such a mind person and i believe days are won and lost in the mind. maybe it's because i believe encouragement is the key to the Body of Christ. maybe because i believe - with all my heart - that there is great power in how we set our minds and what we do with our thoughts and what we believe and how we go into each day, into each challenge, into each moment. it's the mind! the mind, above all else, it's the key. 

it's inspiring to me to watch them work. it always calms me and leaves me speechless all at the same time. i want to set my own times of 'mental work' throughout my days - close my eyes, focus on what's at hand, focus on what's REAL, take deep breaths, SHOUT ENCOURAGEMENT. because don't we all need that? before we go out and perform, rush from one thing to another, get our checklists out, do things - don't we all need to sit and think, pray and believe, ask God to take our day and use it for His glory? and maybe it's just that we need to speak encouragement to ourselves. 

so, i had a rough morning yesterday. i was running late, couldn't find my phone, had a scheduling miscommunication (y'all. not my morning. literally in my workout clothes and couldn't make it to the gym). and i remember sitting in my closet thinking WHATTT IS THIS MORNING. and then i thought a thought, quite clearly, that said, 

"but that's okay. you can try again tomorrow." 

i tell ya, if that didn't set me free to save my day. i'm doing my own mental work. i owe you, Fort Mill cheer.