I am a basketball player. OK, Ok, maybe I was a basketball player — you know since after my high school alumni game last fall it took me two weeks to walk right. But truly, in my heart, I am still a basketball player.
As a basketball player, I always assumed I would have kids who played basketball. I mean it was my passion growing up so it would certainly be theirs as well. Right? So, last year, at the very young age of 3 1/2, I signed Maylie up for basketball.
She was dressed the part – hair up, rubber head band to keep the fly-aways out of her face, baggy shorts, jersey and even Nike shoes. She was going to get in the game and fall in love. She would learn how to dribble, pass and shoot and I could finally pass on the one thing I found so much joy in growing up.
But do you know what Maylie found last year? Cheerleaders. Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with cheerleaders. Heck, I even dabbled in it myself a bit when I was young (as my mother so willingly likes to throw out there). But I was at the “do what your friends do” stage and quickly found out that it wasn’t for me. So, I never introduced it or offered it to Maylie, I just assumed she would be a basketball player.
Well, let’s just say the half of a season I tortured her (and those poor coaches) by making her stick with it was interesting. Most of the time she was on the opposite end of the floor that the action was on. She didn’t want to be there or play and as a former player and coach, it was obvious.
I ended up pulling her from it — I blamed it mostly on my work schedule but really it was the lack of desire on her part and I felt that she was taking away from the kids who were trying to learn. I am not the mom who lets their kids quit — but this wasn’t what she wanted to do. This was what I wanted her to do.
And it literally crushed me. I know I know. She is young. I am aware that she can change her mind at any time and that some days she changes her outfit five times. But this was different.
I, the kid who ate, slept and breathed basketball growing up, the freshman player playing varsity in high school, the scholarship player in college, and the coach for seven years had to accept that my baby girl was not me. That she needed to do what she had a passion for, even if that meant being cheerleader.
She talked about cheering all year long and I knew what I had to do this year. It secretly broke my heart, but I walked her into the gym past the basketball skill test and signed her up for cheerleading. She was pumped!
Let me tell you the one thing I learned about being a cheer mom so far. Those pompoms? They do not come as pompoms. Oh no, they come as 1,000 pieces of lined up bicycle streamers that the mom has to separate one by one. Oh, and don’t forget to crinkle them when you are finished — literally a two-hour process. And even worse when you forget until 1 a.m. the night before the first game. Oops.
But you should have seen my baby that first game. She was so happy. She followed along with the cheers, and she smiled from ear to ear. It was probably the first time I have ever stepped foot in a gym and literally watched a cheerleader the entire time and not the game. This little girl rocked it. After the game, she told me she was going to be the best cheerleader ever.
And I believe her — because in my book, she already is. I never thought that I would have a cheerleader, and I certainly never imagined that I would be so proud of it. But I guess that’s another selfless motherhood lesson learned the hard way. Her life is hers — not mine. And I refuse to try to mold her into a “little me.”
Instead, I am encouraging her to shine in what she has a passion for, and right now that is cheerleading. I am her biggest fan and my heart melts every time she looks back at me mid cheer with a huge smile and a wave. I am right behind you baby, supporting you in anything positive that you want to pursue. I am so proud of you.
And that is how I went from a basketball player to a cheer mom. But stay tuned, because Reagan cannot wait to get in the game. And hey, one out of two isn’t too bad (unless it’s free throws).
Sarah (Pitson) Shrader was born and raised in Lima. She is a Lima Central Catholic and Tiffin University graduate. Sarah is a full-time working mama who enjoys writing about her somewhat crazy, always adventurous life as a mother. She lives in Bath Township with her husband, Paul, and their daughters, her writing inspirations, Maylie and Reagan.