Ahhhh, April! There’s nothing quite so intoxicating as the smell of freshly cut grass, exploding Peeps in the microwave and the agonizing thrill of what I like to call, “You’re scoring my soul on that clipboard.” Otherwise known as Spring Tryouts.
Soccer tryouts, office tryouts, baseball, dance team, cheerleading tryouts...the rights of passage that cleat stomp every earnest heart and smear the remaining guts across the football field turf. And yet, like a pig to the mud, me and thee return to it every year.
I first became enthralled when my big sister, Nicki, made jr. high cheerleader. Suddenly, to me anyway, her world became an ethereal haze of perfection. First, she got to be “initiated,” which was code for, “center of attention”. They kidnapped her and did her hair in crazy ponytails and made her wear a giant sign at the Layton Hills Mall. And when she returned, she was sporting a new t-shirt with pink bubble letters that said, “Improve your image, be seen with me.” Which I thought showed great confidence, but my parents considered elitist—aka; “Bunch of stuck up snots.” And of course, she pretended the whole hazing incident was mortifying, but deep down, I knew. I knew that it meant she was popular as H.E. double hockey sticks, and as the anonymous second child, I would need to find a way to be that, too. Or kill trying.
You see, being a cheerleader meant you balanced precariously on the very tippy top of the pyramid, then flung yourself off into a back tuck, landing on your feet with spirit fingers and wild, thundering applause from the crowd.
Being a cheerleader also meant boys on bikes came over to your house all summer long—boys like Kent Nye and Chris Cannon—with awesome wispy feathered hair and comb tails that stuck out of the back pocket of their Hash jeans while they performed white hot, hands free, ten speed moves.
And being a cheerleader meant you smelled like Doublemint gum, vanilla musk and Miss Clairol and had an immediate fade out of every awkward social skill and they let you into Lakeside movie theater for FREE, people! Just for being cute! Man, I needed me some of that!
By the time tryouts rolled around, it was simply a matter of formality, and everybody knew it. I mean, duh, my sister was already a cheerleader (smirk, eyeroll and shoulder shrug). Donning my red jumpsuit with the stretchy rainbow belt, I leapt into the gym like a lamb to the slaughter:
“Ready, okay! North Davis Jr. High, School we all love!” I knew the song and routine by heart.
Jump, kick, round-off back handspring, splits! Nailed it!
Now for the cheer we had to make up—”REACH FOR THE STARS, SHOOT FOR THE MOON, THE NORSEMAN TEAM WILL SHOW YOU HOW!”
Wait—that doesn’t rhyme. My tongue went numb and I started to black out. Beautiful Head Cheerleader, Gail Keller, had to drag me by the hand off stage right and go over the words with me. I smiled and nodded, all the while my brain was a tree in the wind.
I’m sure you’ve gathered by now things didn’t go as planned, because trees don’t belong in brains when you’re trying to remember a cheer. The judges chose to provide me with another year to ponder and prepare, before I eventually made the squad.
And just like most things in life, the reality bore little to no resemblance to the fantasy, as my own cheerleading experience consisted of vicious ostracizing for not attending Spirit Camp, weeping, mournful journal entries and hunkering down as the base of every. stupid. pyramid. You can’t do spirit fingers when you’re the base, friends. Little known fact.
Ultimately, I tired of the ritual, but only after wearing it out. And then I went and had a fistful of kids to claim their victories as my own. (Their failures belong to their father, because I’m a giver.)
In conclusion, a couple of things: First, Spring Tryouts are from Satan and they ruined my life. But good luck to the rest of you—MAY YOU ALL MAKE THE SQUAD/TEAM! And finally, would it have KILLED you, Kent and Chris, to have performed one single ten speed drive by? No. No, it would not.
Bless your selfish hearts.