Everyone has something in their lives that makes them genuinely happy. Everyone has that special something that gives you a reason to wake up every morning. For some people, it’s a person, and for others, it’s something monetary. Mine was cheerleading, competitive cheerleading to be exact. I started competitively cheering in 2002, when I was 3 years old. I started at ‘Cheer America’, went to ‘Tatarus Allstar Cheerleading’, and then migrated to a very special place, Premier Athletics. I started going to Premier when I was in the 4th grade, 9 years old to be even more specific. My mom told me I was going to a special practice after school. I was so nervous, I remember crying on the way there because I didn’t know anyone, and I didn’t want to be the new kid. The very first team I cheered on at Premier was Coral Sharks. I can vividly remember my coaches, at the time, Angie and Danielle, bending down next to me telling me how happy they were to have me on their team. They introduced me to the other girls and right at that moment, I felt like I was already at a place I’d soon call my home. The more I watched these girls perform their routine, the more in awe I felt, yes even at 9 years old. I later tried out for the next season and was lucky enough to be on coral sharks again. This year was different, I got my first back handspring! It was the happiest moment I had at that point in my life. My 2nd year on coral sharks I made some of my current life-long friends that I still have today. Just to name a few, Alexis, Reagan, Macie, and Bailey, and the young lady that taught me my very first tumbling skill was the infamous ‘mama Sus’, a woman who I would soon look up to as a role model.
My third year at Premier, I made the roster of the newly formed team, the Rainbow Sharks. That year I made some incredible friends. The Rainbow Sharks girls were unstoppable, and you couldn’t tell us anything because we knew we were the stuff. We would have tons of sleep overs, I remember, and we were wild at practices. These group of girls are a group I have grown in the gym with since we were on rainbow. A memory I will never forget with Rainbow Sharks is the pool party we had at one of our teammates house. I couldn’t swim, so all my teammates made sure to hangout with me in the jacuzzi, and I just thought that was the nicest thing ever.
I took a couple of years off and came back to open arms by my past teammates and coaches. This is where I was lucky enough to be coached by two of the greatest people on earth, Levon and Kendall. This year I was on Gold Sharks. Gold sharks was an incredible experience because I was so much older and started developing more of my tumbling skills. That year, we were was the closest I had ever been with a team. We went to Dollywood together, had sleepovers, and inside jokes out of the wazoo. That year I met even more amazing people who I am still friends with today. Those group of athletes were the most supportive people I have ever met. Our coaches were hard on us at times, but that was only because they loved us so much, that they wanted to see us succeed. Whenever any of us were having a bad day, I could always count on coming to practice and having Levon and Kendall make us laugh until our stomachs hurt. They taught us about struggle and perseverance. No matter the outcome of our performance, they always let us know how proud they were of us, and no trophy or title would ever compete with that feeling.
As I got in my mid-late high school years, I was blessed to compete with athletes that made up the infamous Thresher Sharks. That year, hands down, was the best year of my life. That year taught me about love for your teammates, encouragement for one another, and overall taught me many life lessons that I now use in college. That glorious year, I was coached by Susan and Vince. Those two were incredible coaches together. This team was incredible together. Vince pushed me to do my very best every chance I got, and Sus was always there to pick me up when I fell down. Susan is and will always be like a second momma to me. She took me as I was, and loved me for who I was. She pushed me as an athlete and as a person. As an athlete, she would never let me put myself down. She never let me accept failure. As a person, Susan taught me about self-love, something I was lacking at that point in my life. She taught me that I needed to love myself, and learn to pick myself up in bad situations. My very favorite memory I have with her was when I went to her office and became very vulnerable about how I was feeling mentally. Not once did she tell me that my feelings don’t deserve to validated. She looked at me as a coach and friend and said “Tay, I will always be here for you, I’m just a phone call away”, and that has stuck with me since she said it. I look up to her, as the rest of the gym does, as a role model. She is the most kind-hearted person I know, and I am forever thankful to have crossed paths with her.
My point is, this program has changed my life for the better. I have shed blood, sweat, and tears at this gym, but I would not change the experience for anything in this world, and because of this, I have life long friendships, and experiences I will take with me every-where I go throughout life. I was lucky enough to encounter all of my coaches I have ever had, and to see the athletes I grew up with getting new skills and pushing themselves to be there very best is so inspiring. Cheerleading is a sport that will forever hold a tender place in my heart because it taught me to love everyone as they are. It taught me to push even when I can’t push on anymore, and it taught me about the value of a family, biological or not. The end of my cheer career was one of the most heartbreaking moments in my life, and if you are at the end of the road for cheerleading, especially with Premier Athletics, cherish ever hug, laugh, triumph, and failure you have with your team and fellow gym mates because you’ll beg for those moments back. My 8 year-old sister told me she wants to do what I did, and I told her it will change her life only for the better.