|My athlete, holding up one finger to commemorate his first ride on his new bike.|
I've been surprised at what I've learned about cheerleading.
A cheerleader can make a huge difference in the life of an athlete, not because she wears a cute outfit (I don't) and not because she whoops and hollers some encouraging chant as loud as she can. (He can't hear me above the '80s rock blasting through his headphones.)
If it's not the cute outfit or the vociferous callouts, how does a cheerleader make a difference? In my case, it's by getting up with him at 6:30a, prepping his water bottle, remembering to grab a towel to soak up his perspiration, and riding shotgun to the practice parking lot.
This cheerleader, and others like her, impacts her athlete through the power of her presence.
I discovered (after he instituted headphones) that the power of my presence during the half hour Bob rides has its limitations:
- I can't ensure he has a good night of sleep the night before.
- I can't make him get out of bed.
- I can't ride for him.
- I can't make him pedal faster.
- I can't encourage him with words.
- I can't motivate him to push himself up that hill.
But what my presence can do is demonstrate my belief in my athlete's ability to "just do it."
You may not realize it, but you've been a cheerleader. 'Fess up--you were standing there in front of the television screen, yelling as your favorite athlete competed during the Olympics last month, weren't you! Everyone likes to be part of the athlete's "squad" when it's go time, the time when the results of all those hours, days, weeks, months, and years of practice shine.
Only a select few know what has gone before that moment: she was there, sitting quietly on some bench for 16 years, yawning into her coffee after chauffeuring her daughter at o'dark-thirty for swim practice, or because she's sat in the ice rink for over a decade, bundled against the cold, shivering while her boys skated after a puck and sweated. Those who accompany athletes to their practices are ministering to them with their presence. Not their words.
Because I cherish words and like influencing others with them, this is a hard reality. But I have to take my athlete at his and believe that my cheering is impacting him. The results of his performance are his alone.
Results aren't what I'm there for anyway. Yes, I'll slap his butt or knock knuckles with him and make positive listening noises when he shares his heart rate and calories burned. I now know that my job isn't to motivate, but to encourage.
Just by being there.
Who are you cheering for?