If I say the word cheerleader, you probably have an instant reaction. Maybe it is good, maybe it is bad. But that word, cheerleader, seems to bring forth a response in everyone. For me, it has always had a negative connotation.

In part, it was because I never really considered cheerleading a sport. As a boy, I loved competition. I loved it in sports, in the nature of action figures, in attempting to achieve the highest grades. I loved beating people at things, at fighting and triumphing. With cheerleading, there was no beating, there was just encouraging. I just didn’t get the point of it. Cheerleaders stood on the sidelines of the basketball court or football field and shouted. What was tough about that? What was competitive about that?

Cheerleaders were often popular girls, girls with beauty and bodies. That was a double-edged sword. Some ended up believing that was all they had going and became quite promiscuous, something I considered a waste of beauty. Others let their beauty get to their heads and treated the rest of the students like second class high schoolers. And some had beauty and bodies and used that in their interactions with others rather than their brains. It was dreadful trying to have a deep conversation with one of them.

Even a few boys joined cheerleading. Honestly, I laughed at them. Remember that I loved competition. How could these guys join cheerleading where there was no competition? I believed it was a girl’s sport and a sport for those girls who weren’t tough enough to kick around a soccer ball or run a hundred yards. What was a guy doing cheerleading? There had to be something wrong with them.

I think I have had always felt negatively about cheerleading despite the fact that I have met some really fantastic women who cheerlead. I have even met some great guys who enjoyed the sport.

But my view of cheerleading changed completely with a few words from a friend the other day. She was talking about her daughter cheering on her teammates in basketball after breaking her leg. It made me think. I even talked to another friend, Monica, who cheerlead for seven years. She reminisced how to her, cheerleading was like watching the “team go off to battle.” Left on the sidelines, she adopted a “warlike mentality” to cheer them to victory. A metaphor, but how apt. That’s the power of a good cheerleader.

Now I want my wife to be one of the best cheerleaders in the world. You see, before, I never realized the true value of a good cheerleader.

One of the sports I enjoyed in high school was cross country. It was a team sport, but even more so it was a solitary sport. Most of the time I was competing against myself, against my will and against my body. During our races through the hills and woods, that struggle was enhanced. I had so many thoughts of quitting the race or of slowing down to stop the pain that was crippling my legs and squeezing my chest. Sometimes I did slow down.

Yet, in those moments it always seemed like the trail turned and one of my teammates was standing there by a tree cheering me on. Most of the time it was a member of the girls team (the other boys were running) and I always had a crush on more than one member of the girl’s team. I didn’t want to quit or slow down with them watching me. I did the opposite. I ran harder. I ran with more purpose. I wanted to impress them. I wanted them to think I was a great runner. I wanted them to see me as conquering champion or a gifted athlete. So I ran harder and faster.

Eventually, I was able to woo one of those girls. And man could she motivate me. When she was on the sideline cheering me on I felt like the Flash. From somewhere deep inside I found energy and passion I didn’t know I had. Her love and words of encouragement were like electric energy igniting me. As I ran past her, my whole body tingled (it was probably a bit of oxygen deprivation from running harder and a bit of adrenaline coursing through my blood vessels, but at the time I though it was love magic – and maybe in a way it was).

Those memories were triggered with just a few words and as I thought about them, I began to like the idea of cheerleaders. That is why I want my wife to be the best cheerleader in the world. I want her to encourage me every day to achieve my dreams. I want her to believe I can accomplish impossible things and in doing so make me believe they are possible. I want her to tell me how handsome I am and how happy I make her. I must admit, I am going to be her biggest cheerleader too.

© Seth Crossman