Humility. It can be godawful and heart wrenching in the moment, but in the long run it can do wonders for the ownership you feel to your sport, your teammates, and yourself. However, the levels of humility vary depending on a few different elements: the situation in which you do something that causes humiliation or similarly, embarrassment, the people who are there to witness the event, and the degree to which your error was made.
If you’re lucky, you’ll mess up during a practice, or maybe a scrimmage. I know that on my cheerleading team, messing up in practice is looked down upon, but it is acceptable, especially if the team is just learning a new skill. However, I have always been told that “how you practice is how you perform”, and I truly believe that. If you don’t pull your tumbling pass or stick your stunt sequence in practice, you’re unlikely to do it at a game or competition. Messing up in practice is bad, but messing up in front of an audience, and especially in a competitive atmosphere is, at least in my eyes, worse.
With cheerleading, you can mess up at competition and still take first place. The judgment of your routine is broken up into categories such as tumbling, stunting, jumps, showmanship, level of difficulty, and overall performance. A team could drop one of their stunts, making their overall impression drop; however, if their tumbling, jumps, energy and enthusiasm is through the roof, then it can make up for the faulty category of stunting. Cheerleading is very political; if you have a solid history of performing well, a judge may let a mistake go without as much consequence because it’s “really not like you” and they “know you are capable of doing better.” I completely disagree with this part of cheerleading. You should be judged on the routine you compete with at the time you are being judged and nothing else.
But you’re judged in other ways, you see. If you drop that stunt in a competition, that’s where the humility comes into play. Messing up in front of a large audience is embarrassing to say the least. Especially if it is an audience who is more susceptible to giving harsh criticism, such as your classmates and peers. Strangers don’t care how you do, they have no connection or relation to you. But those that know you invest in you. They take pride in you because you are connected to them through some commonality or cultural similarity. When you are humiliated, it humiliates them, too. Performing poorly in front of an audience that I have a connection to is one of the worst feelings I have ever experienced. That may sound shallow when looked at comparatively to life-threatening situations, but I have control over my performance and performing well is something I place a high value on.
So what is the outcome? What happens as a result of this humility? Well, a feeling of regret often takes over the individual who made a public mistake; A self-defeating mentality may kick in, having you question what went wrong and wondering how you could have altered the circumstances to work in your favor. But after the initial embarrassment, a positive shift occurs more often than not. You become grounded. You realize that you are not perfect, that mistakes happen, and that the feeling of humiliation you just experienced is one that you don’t ever want to go through again. To me, I will always view cheerleading as a constant battle with oneself. Sure, your coaches and teammates can motivate you to be better, but it is you and only you that can push yourself beyond your limits. So you fight. You fight to be better. You fight to stay humble without experiencing humiliation. You fight to avoid the past and you fight to improve the future. You fight to go that extra mile so that you can experience pride instead of punishment. And you fight for your sport; you fight for what you love.