Many people identify with their sports. It’s the main thing in their lives. Many of them can't imagine life without it. But, things happen. Too many injuries, aging out, bad coaching, losing passion for the adored sport, and they all suck.
When these things happen, sometimes it is okay to just push through. Maybe it was just a bad season and you will find your passion again with a new set of teammates. However, this is not always the case. Sometimes going against the “never give up” motto is more beneficial for the individual athlete.
I spent the majority of my life doing all-star cheer. I spent the majority of my time outside of school at the gym with my team or traveling around the country competing. I have more medals and trophies than I know what to do with, and finally this past season I won my first and second jacket, (which is just a huge bonus to winning first at major competitions).
After cheering for so long I have come to realize that I wasn’t chasing the fancy banners and jackets, but I was chasing the feeling that came with those placements. If anyone has ever won a huge game or competition, they probably understand the feeling I’m talking about. The pure euphoria. I still have yet to find something that gives me that same feeling and I doubt I ever will, which sounds horrible to say, but it’s truly how I feel.
After this past season, I experienced a heartbreak from the sport I love that I never thought was possible. The year had been extremely rough on me mentally and physically: concussion after concussion, a lot of sweat and tears and a decent amount of blood.
I started despising the thought of going to practice, terrified I was going to get hit in the head again, which would definitely end my cheer career. It wasn’t just practice though, because let's be honest, no one adores practice, but going on stage and competing as well.
Design by Rainatu Thullah
I don't know why exactly why this switch happened but it broke my heart. I was sure I wasn't going to quit mid-season, but I had no idea what was going to happen when the season ended.
My team and I ended up going into nationals in Florida. We were pretty confident, coming off a pretty incredible run, with five first place titles, one second place title and one third place title; we knew we had a pretty good chance of winning. I had already decided that this was it. I would have one final run and then retire from cheer.
Final practices rolled around, and I began to wonder if I was really ready to be done with the sport I spent so much of my life committed to. After a decent number of tears before we went on, I decided that depending on how the day went I may come back.
At the end of the day, we probably had one of the worst performances that I have experienced. We ended up standing together outside of the arena bawling our eyes out, realizing we definitely were not moving onto finals. On the flight home, I looked back on my season; it was by far the most successful I had ever had, but I realized I didn't enjoy it as much as I should.
I was in denial about that though. I told myself I would cheer again even though deep down I knew it was the end. I tried out anyway, made one of the top teams, but I wasn’t excited. I was having an internal battle with myself, debating if it was really what I wanted. I knew the commitment it would take. After a lot of thought and talking to people I look up to, I realized it wasn’t the right choice for me.
I don't regret quitting. I definitely miss the bond I had with my team and all the memories we made. However, it was time to close that chapter of my life and I stand by that decision.
Letting go of something that was such a big part of one's life is extremely difficult, but it may lead to even bigger and better opportunities.