Be of GOOD CHEER! – or how cartwheels, competitions and “cheer face” help while tumbling through cancer.

My granddaughter Haley has found a new activity she loves – competitive cheerleading.  And, unlike cheerleading back in my youth, there’s no football or basketball team or school associated with this.  It’s cheering as a team sport, and boy, is it rough!  Well, maybe not so much for her group level, except for the battle that is the perfect competition hair!  In the large order of competitive cheerleading, the ages are 5-6 for the ‘tiny’ squads and up to age 18 for the ‘senior’s.  And, although an audition (observation and placement) is necessary to be placed in a group, all who sign up (and pay a long-term investment of tuition, etc…) are placed in a group, or a squad.  The squad meets together and learns individual and group stunts, jumps and tumbling, choreography, dance moves, and the ‘looks’ that go along with the moves. Importantly to Haley, there’s ‘drama-face’ and ‘cheer face’. Both of those are plastered in competition makeup – which is fun for a 6-year-old – and involve an overly-sucked-in closed mouth with facial attitude for the ‘drama face’ and a creepily, overspread smile, showing all teeth, even loose or missing ones, with deer-in-the-headlights eyes opened wide for the ‘cheer face’.  Haley and I enjoyed a private dance party the other evening. We often have dance parties when we’re together.  That night, she taught me that ‘drama face’ was important while dancing and slinging her head around to Bruno Mars and Meghan Trainor, as well as her favorite selections from Disney’s Descendants 2. She often stopped to see if I was doing the ‘drama face’ correctly.

Recently, I was (blessed? Forced?) to escort her to her cheer squad’s season ending cheer competition in the Poconos.  (Yes, this sport involves expensive travel, as well.)  Luckily, my sister flew in to visit and help, so, a fun “girls’ trip” to the north ensued.  Haley’s group performed well.  They’ve made good strides this season.  They’ve learned many skills. They’ve learned that it takes everyone on the team working and moving together to be safe and effective.  They’ve learned that the “base” or support of the bottom of a pyramid or lift is just as important, if not more so, than the one lifted at the top. Haley is the tallest on her team and will most likely always be a ‘base’.  I’m sure we all know how Meghan Trainor feels “all about that”!

I’ve learned from Haley’s experiences this year that there’s a LOT of parts and pieces to CHEER.  I feel I must draw some parallels here to being full of CHEER on my Cancer journey, but I think I’ll let YOU draw your own sight-lines.  After her final competition this season, I sat down with Haley and actually interviewed her for this blog.  (She was really excited about that!)

Here’s some of our interview.

Me:                 Tell me about the first time you started trying to do cartwheels.

Haley:             It was at my house. And in gymnastics I had before cheerleading.

Me:                 Were you afraid?

H:                    No, not afraid.  I did it a bunch of times and messed up, but I knew I was  brave enough to do it.

Me:                 Did you think you needed to know all the parts and pieces of doing a cartwheel in your head before you did it?

Haley:            I thought about it in my head. And in a movie, it said, “if you think about it, you can do it”!

Me:                 Now, you know, I’ve seen that you really can do good cartwheels, and I know you do them often.

Haley:            I do them every day. It doesn’t matter.  Inside or outside – just not on the mulch or blacktop.  If I fall on that, it will hurt.

Me:                 What other ‘cheer things’ are you working on now?

H:                    Backflips.  I need help to lift my bottom up.  In the future, I’ll probably have to do it by myself.  I’m still working on back walkovers, but Mom helps.

Me:                 Is that important?

H:                    It’s definitely important to have someone help you!


Me:                 Haley, I want you to give me 3 important rules for being a competitive cheerleader.

H:                    Can I do more?

Me:                 Maybe, but let’s go with the top three right now.

H:                    OK.  First of all, work hard. Then try to do it – do your best! And third rule: Have FUN! – and smile!

Me:                 What is the hardest thing about competitive cheerleading?

H:                    stretching and doing the splits – ‘cause I cannot do that well.  And getting my hair done is a PAIN!

Me:                 Does that mean, when it’s a pain you quit because it’s a pain?

H:                    NOPE, nope, NO!

Me:                 Is that an important thing? We don’t quit when it’s a pain?

H:                    Don’t quit even if it hurts.  If you’re sick, you still gotta do it – well, you don’t HAVE to, but I’m doin’ it”!  Yea! (insert leap here. Followed by two cartwheels)

Me:                 What else is important?


H:                    Being on stage.  And the most, having fun!  [proof positive she is biologically connected to me. 😊]


As I learned this Bible verse growing up, in the King’s English, John 16:33 says “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.  In the world ye shall have tribulation; but BE OF GOOD CHEER; I have overcome the world.


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