A wise philosopher and social commentator once said, “big girls don’t cry”
She also said something about how lovely her ‘lady lumps’ were.
Regardless of your levels of love for Fergie, she was wrong. Big girls do cry, and so do big boys. We all cry from time to time.
A week ago when a large balding man in an ill-fitting suit read out that Southern Cross Cheer Legacy had placed second at the Cheerleading World Championships, I cried.
Not your sobbing I-just-watched-the-Notebook-for-the-first-time kind of deal, that’s a little cliché even for me.
In a field of over 20 or so teams only the top 10 are announced at awards and presented with a small trophy, with the top 3 getting bigger, fancier trophies complete with medals.
As the balding man and his companion started reading out the teams starting at 10th place, our collective stomachs were in our throats. To really appreciate how this moment felt it needs some context.
In the grand scheme of things Australia is fairly average Cheerleading, historically speaking at least. That is not to say that the athletes aren’t talented, far from it. Australia as a country is home to one of the best and most accomplished populations when it comes to athletic and physical pursuits. It stems from our outdoorsy, get your hands dirty culture which promote activity and physicality. Our athletes are extremely talented and hard working, that isn’t the issue.
It’s just that Cheerleading isn’t really a thing down here. Tap anyone on the shoulder in the street, ask them if they know what All-Star Cheerleading is and they’ll probably shoot back something involving Pom-Poms and Kirsten Dunst. The smaller the reach, the smaller the talent pool. This applies especially for Elite-level Cheer. Last year we competed against only two other co-ed Level 6 teams, consisting of team who was brand new to Level 6 (who did very, very well for their first year) and a team that looked as if all the bases held a life-long grudge against their flyers and were doing their best to mortally wound them whilst making it seem like an accident.
There was a phrase that was thrown about in the lead-up to Worlds that we were determined not to hear; “Pretty good for an Australian team”.
We were very good for an Australian team, but we were heading to the land where Cheerleading was pioneered and we were determined to mix it with the big boys. No Australian team had ever placed in the top 3 at Cheerleading Worlds, with only a handful making it to the top ten.
That is why when the balding man read out 10th, 9th, 8th place and our name was yet to be called the gravity of the situation hit us. As the number of remaining places shrunk our disbelief grew. 6th, 5th and then 4th place was called out, and still no SCC Legacy. At that point the game was already up. Bronze would have done and we’d still be in the same situation we are now, utterly ecstatic. Third place was called and it went to the delightful team from Quebec, Flyers All-star Shock. I’ll never forget looking over at them and seeing the looks on their faces when their name was called, their looks of pure joy and adulation. This was huge for them, having come fifth the previous year and looking to do the exact same thing as us, take it to the Americans. It warms me still.
That left little old Legacy, sitting right at the top with the famous Cheer Athletics Claw6. Some part of me wants to say that I believed we had won, but that would be a lie. We saw Claw6 compete and we knew that they had us. They were bigger, better and had been at this longer than us, but we didn’t care.
I stared open mouthed at my coach for the briefest moment as our name was called out.
Second place; Silver Champions; SCC Legacy.
It was in that moment that I realized how much this truly meant to me.
It is very easy to get caught up in the whole process of training and forget how much effort you’re really putting in. The extra hours seem fine. You start to fade away from your friends and miss more parties than you attend. You drink less, or not at all. A constantly sore and aching body becomes commonplace. Your coach grills you and you start to doubt yourself. The highs and lows of competition and training all blur into one mass of joy and disappointment that disorients you and tricks you into believing that this is perfectly normal.
In that moment it was all deemed worth it. All the sacrifices, the pain and torment had been recognised, and we were rewarded. It all came tumbling out of me.
I will never forget that day, what it meant for my Legacy family and what it meant to me.
It’s Legacy, baby.