As you may or may not know, I coach high school cheerleading. Last week we had tryouts and it is hands down the WORST day to be a coach. Especially, if you hate disappointing people. I think we all understand the point of, and have probably been through, tryouts – make sure the best athletes make the team. With cheerleading, everyone “plays.” There is no pine to ride, so not everyone makes the squad. As a coach and being the one to determine who stays and who goes, this is difficult. And those who don’t make it are always disappointed, and feeling like I’m the source of their disappointment is not an easy pill for me to swallow.
Take for example one cheerleader who didn’t make the squad her senior year. My heart breaks for her. My tryout process is extremely fair and I know that. It is not biased toward cheerleaders who have been on the squad previously, and I don’t choose my teams based on who I like or don’t like. It’s based on talent and is completely objective. But it doesn’t make it easy to tell a girl who has cheered for three years, that she won’t be returning for her senior year. That does not sit well with my soul.
And while my heart is breaking for this cheerleader, I am reminded of a similar situation that I experienced in college that has since served as a life lesson to me. I cheered in college my sophomore year, and I was trying out for my junior season. Up to this point, I had always made the team. I worked hard and always gave 100%, and I attributed my success to my personal commitment to always do my very best. To my pursuit for perfection. But on the last day of cheer tryouts for my junior season, the list of cheerleaders was announced and my name was not on it.
I was crushed. I had done my very best and, for the first time that I can remember, it wasn’t good enough. What a blow to the old ego. But looking back, I am thankful for the life lesson that not making the college cheer team taught me. It humbled me. There have been, and will continue to be, times in my life when I will do my very best and I still won’t make the team or get the job. But that hasn’t stopped me from trying new things, submitting my resume or still doing my very best. It hasn’t stopped me from pushing myself to do more, to be better. This life lesson has allowed me to grow and has taught me to always be humble. Because sometimes I'm not always as good at something as I think I am.
When I think about the cheerleader who didn’t make my squad for her senior year, I hope that this serves as a humbling life lesson to her. She is a hard worker and a great kid. And I hope that this blip on the radar of her life doesn’t stop her from always doing her best. I hope that it allows her to grow and know that sometimes we can do our absolute best, but it does not a guarantee us a spot on the team.
I can say with certainty that I will never be OK with disappointing people. But I hope that each of us can appreciate the life lesson that comes with disappointment. And I hope that each of us does not let disappointment or rejection stop us from doing our very best in all that we do.