Not Making the Team – A Silver Lining

June 6, 2011  |  Field Notes, Life Beyond Cheer


My name was nowhere on the list. Standing outside my junior high school with scores of other hopefuls, I kept staring at the typed list of names hung in the window.  It had to be a mistake. I was meant to be a cheerleader. How could I have not made the team?

I tried to fight back the tears, but they wouldn’t stop. At twelve years of age, I learned how it feels to work hard, dream big…and then have your heart swell with pain at the posting of 12 names—12 names that didn’t include my own.

I cried myself to sleep that night, not having developed other coping skills at the tender age of 12. My parents tried their best to console me, my father even brought home a present for me that night—a sterling silver brush, comb, and hand mirror vanity set—something he told me should remind me of the inner beauty and strength he knew I possessed, regardless of any teams I did or didn’t make.

. . .

I still have that silver vanity set. I used the mirror this morning and was reminded that it’s your failures in life that make you stronger. Character is forged through enduring tough times, not having things come easily to you. My silver mirror still serves to remind me of this.

In hindsight, there are many things worse than not making cheerleader. I know that. My life has been punctuated by many setbacks and challenges since that first dose of disappointment.  But you know what? That first bitter taste helped to shape me into something stronger. And it motivated me to work harder.

The next year, I did make the team. But more importantly, I had found within myself the strength to persevere.

Life is full of challenges. Look for the silver lining. Take disappointment and mold it into inspiration. I’m proud to have been a cheerleader, and one of the greatest lessons I learned through cheerleading is to never give up on your dreams.

— Jenni Parrish



6 Comments


  1. I had a similar experience. I tried out for cheerleading in 7th and 8th grade and I did not make the squad either time. Then I tried out at my high school and didnt make the squad for a third time. However, I did not let these failures bring me down. They only made me stronger. I then went to try out for an All-Star team and I made the squad. There were bigger and better things in store for me, I just didnt know it yet! Then I tried out for cheerleading at my High School for my senior year and I ended up making all three squads! Varsity Football, Basketball, and Competition. I was so ecstatic. I truly have a passion for cheerleading and continuing to follow my dreams was the best thing I could have done. I now hope to be able to cheer in college :)

  2. I tried out my 8th and 9th grade yrs for Jr High and did NOT make it either year. Our High school is a county high school and each side has their own Jr high. When I tried out for my sophomore year I was the only 10th grader chosen from my Jr High. I now coach at my old Jr high (which is now a middle school) and before I cut anyone I tell them my story; in hopes that it will encourage them to keep trying for what they really want.

  3. I tried out twice and did not make the squad. The second time I tried out I had practiced for months. Then I was given the opportunity to be manager and mascot so I could improve my skills. I loved it but we got a new coach. My coach and I never sat down to talk about my goals and what the expectations were, and I ended up quitting. I was so hurt I did not even try out the following year and I do regret that. I regret more that my coach and I did not talk. I look back now and see that God’s hand was on me and I did experiences successes that led to college scholarships and other opportunities despite not cheering in high school. Today, I still have a passion for cheerleading. And I have learned my lessons. Recently my coach and I had a heart to heart and I now consider her a friend. So yes, there is a silver lining.

  4. I tried out for my middle school squad when I was a mere seventh grader. I had had little to no cheerleading experience, but I still desperately wanted to make the team. Given my lack of knowledge for the sport, I should have known that I wouldn’t have made it. However, my younger self was completely heartbroken. After I got back on my feet, I decided that I was going to push myself to become a better cheerleader. I went to tumbling, took classes, and got stronger as a person overall. When tryouts rolled around the next year, I made the squad. After completing my first year as a cheerleader in my school district, I tried out for my high school JV squad in my freshman year. I was happy I made it, as it gave me the opportunity to learn more skills and to continue improving. A year later, tryouts came yet again. I originally wanted to tryout for just JV, thinking that I wouldn’t be good enough to make the Varsity squad. However, on the first night of tryouts, I was approached by both the JV and Varsity coaches. They asked me to perform a few tumbling skills (something that I have been working very hard on since being rejected at seventh grade tryouts), and asked me to try out for Varsity. I agreed, thinking that it would push me to try harder. I decided not to get my hopes up, and that if anything, these tryouts would give me the opportunity to see how much I needed to improve if I wanted to make my Varsity squad. Throughout the entire week, I felt so thankful for the small remarks of encouragement coming from other cheerleaders, as well as the coaches, but I still held onto the idea that I wouldn’t make it. So on the final day of tryouts, when they announced that they were keeping all of us, I burst into tears. All of their advice and loving words meant so much to me. Going from a little girl who dreamt of being a cheerleader without the anticipation of ever amounting to anything, to being placed on our award winning Varsity squad was absolutely incredible. I can’t thank my coach enough for giving me such an amazing opportunity. For anyone who doesn’t think they are good enough, or that they can’t do it: don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.

  5. I did not make cheerleading my 7th grade year. I was devastated! However, after working my tail off for an entire year, I made the squad my 8th grade year, and then again all four years of high school. I am now a junior in college and am in my third year of coaching cheerleading. I’m even taking on two squads this year!

    I know the story of a girl from my hometown whose sister was a fellow cheerleader and good friend of mine. She did not make the cheerleading squad at our very small (<200 students) high school. She kept working hard, and she eventually became the captain of a cheer squad at a NCAA Division 1 college and cheered for a professional football team as well.

    Never give up! Fight for your dreams.

  6. My freshman year in High School was amazing. Although there was something missing. Cheerleading. The year before , the week of tryouts I just couldn’t do it.I was so afraid of rejection and what other people would think. And what if i didn’t make it? When I mustered up enough courage it was too late. I saw the other girls at my middle school exited to be on the team. I was crushed. I wanted the outfits and the title of “Cheerleader” so bad. I wanted it for the wrong reasons. At the semester I realized I wasn’t enjoying my school, for I had fallen victim to mean girls who just wouldn’t leave me alone. I transferred to a crosstown high-school for a fresh start. That’s when I met Mackenzie. Mackenzie was a cheerleader and everything I aspired to be. We became close friends and I befriended all of the cheerleaders. I enrolled in a tumbling class at an All-star Gym and discovered my LOVE of cheer-leading. I couldn’t get enough! I started taking cheer clinics. and perfected my jumps motions and started working on my back handspring. When try outs rolled around I was so exited. Because this time I wasn’t going to let fear stop me. Although the competition was stiff. There were 35 girls trying out. 15 spots. That meant 20 would be cut. I had faith in myself though. When the clinic dates occurred I was there, and I shined. nailed almost everything and my personality really came through. I asked questions and didn’t talk when the coach was talking. The day of try outs I was superbly confident, cocky even. Not a doubt I would make the team. So It came my turn as they called my group. Me and another girl, molly. When i first got in there I spirited and smiled. I was asked to do the short cheer. Did it perfectly. Next came the long cheer. The Lincoln Bulls* are here to say… I blanked. I stayed there my heart beating faster, and faster. With a smile tying to play it off. My dreams shattered into a million pieces. I wanted to be a cheerleader so bad, and this time for the right reasons! The coach asked me if i would like t start over, and i blanked in the same spot again. I knew i wasn’t going to make it, and i accepted it right there. i remembered the next stanza and just kept going from there. I finished the dance, kicks, jumps, and extras like nothing had happened. But inside i was a mess. I came out devastated. There must have been 20 supportive girls all hugging me as i cried. They knew how hard I worked and they told me I was gonna make it no doubt. But i knew otherwise. I went home and cried, and cried, and CRIED. Then Mackenzie called me. I needed to hear my best friends voice. She picked me up and took my to her house. Attempting to console me. Tell me how stupid I was being. But I had already knew what no one else was seeming to understand. There was no way I was going to make it. The next day I got ready for school ready to put on a brave face. But when I got in the car, I told my mom I wasn’t going to school. I just couldn’t hold back my tears. and i couldn’t deal with the pity or embarrassment. And I knew If I had made it Mackenzie would have called to tell me the good news. I got in my pajamas popped in a twilight movie and grabbed a tub of Ben n Jerry deciding to spend the day sobbing and feeling sorry for my self. I get a text. From Mackenzie. Saying “Where r u? Silly girl! I told u that u were going to make it.!” She sent me a picture of the list. There were Sixteen names. Not fifteen. And I was on there. My sadness tears turned into the happy laughing tears. That was the best moment of my life. Not because I made cheerleading, but because I had worked so hard at something and I accomplished It and I thought I wasn’t going to make it! But i did. My Coach believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. Don’t ever accept failure or count yourself out, you really never know what the out come is gonna be. I value that experience. It humbled me and taught me how to be apart of a TEAM. And I found out the true meaning of CheerLEADER.

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