When my daughter joined a special abilities cheerleading team last year, I went online to learn more about cheer in general. My search led me to a reality show on Netflix about a Canadian cheerleading team. The show Cheer Squad is a behind-the-scenes look at the world champion Great White Sharks—practices, competitions, wins, losses, and backstories of some of the athletes.
Avery and I started watching together, but I didn’t expect to actually pay attention. I planned to passively watch while scrolling through Facebook.
However, I was quickly drawn into the show and with every episode I was more amazed by the skill and athleticism required in this sport. It’s a combination of dance, gymnastics, tumbling, and intricately choreographed and perfectly synchronized teamwork. The athletes literally hurl each other into the air and it’s hold-your-breath incredible.
On the plane to Florida (Avery’s team competed in the World Cheerleading Championships at ESPN Disney this year) Avery spotted one of the athletes from the show. And not just anyone… her favourite cheerleader and absolute idol.
Rebecca Webster from the Great White Sharks was on our flight.
Avery pointed and whispered, “Mummy! Becca…”
Avery desperately wanted to say hello so we slipped in behind her in the aisle. The poor girl was just trying to use the lavatory. When we introduced ourselves we discovered she was just a nice as we imagined she’d be.
After the competition I wrote a story for Today’s Parent Magazine about our team’s groundbreaking competition experience. I tagged Becca in a tweet about it because her kindness that day made it into the story. Naturally, because kindness should always be a part of the story.
Becca not only tweeted back, she also messaged an invite to Avery and a friend to come watch her team practice.
When I told Avery she was going to meet the Great White Sharks, she screamed. She shouted, “Mummy I’m so excited!! I get to go there? I get to see them like on the T.V.?”
Then more quietly, and in a serious tone she added, “Thank you for doing this for me mummy.”
That’s when I cried a little because, well, wouldn’t you?
Avery asked her cheer friend Mia to come along—a fitting choice because Mia and her mom Alison were the ones who encouraged us to try cheer, specifically Power Cheer Toronto, in the first place.
The four of us drove to Cambridge after our own team practice to visit the ‘Shark Tank.’. Avery spotted Becca out on the mat and pressed her face against the glass to get a closer look. She whispered, “There she is…”
Becca saw Avery’s face smushed up against the window and invited her and Mia inside to watch, up close. The girls sat watching, mesmerized.
The head coach greeted them warmly and the two girls beamed. They were special guests and were treated as such.
Avery collected autographs during a break and team members came over throughout the practice to chat. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but the giant smiles spoke volumes.
Becca messaged me that night to say she was glad the girls could come. I replied that though it may not have seemed like much, to the girls it was everything.
Avery and Mia chatted all about it on the way home. Mia decided they should add “throws” to their own routine. She said maybe she could throw Avery? Of course Avery was all in. Fear? What fear? Mia’s mom said, “Mia, you know that if you throw Avery, you have to catch her, right?”
It’s okay. We’ll get it sorted before Worlds 2019.
Atypical kids are so often singled out, but not usually in a favourable way.
So, three cheers to you Cheer Sport! You chose to single out Avery and Mia in such an inclusive and welcoming way. When your idol makes you feel important, it’s a confidence boost with a lasting impact.
Thank you for giving our girls this very special memory.
P.S. The visit totally “HIT.” See what I did there? I used a cheerleading term appropriately. Apparently I’m becoming a true cheer mom.