In your heart of hearts, you knew that Worlds being cancelled was a possibility. At some point over the past several weeks, you may even have admitted to yourself that a cancellation was likely. Maybe your gym had already made the decision not to attend Worlds (maybe as an owner, you had to make that difficult decision yourself). Despite this, Worlds was still potentially happening.
There was hope. A sliver of it. A tiny glimmer that allowed you to say “maybe in the summer” or “perhaps even virtually” or “I know my gym said they aren’t going, but maybe if the right plan is put into place…” The hope was there, even if you didn’t recognize it or let yourself acknowledge it too often or openly.
Earlier this week, an official announcement came out that Worlds 2020 is cancelled. The season is over. And no matter where you fell on that spectrum of hope that Worlds might happen, you felt sad — even if you also felt relieved, glad a decision was made, ready to look forward to the future — seeing it in writing, that there would be no Worlds 2020, it was sad.
I’m here to tell you that Worlds being cancelled is not the end of the world. It’s not the worst thing that could happen. Bigger tragedies are happening right now, all around us, on a global scale.
I’m also here to tell you that your heartbreak is 100%, totally, completely valid. It is real. It is okay that you’re feeling it, and you don’t have to apologize for it just because it isn’t the most pressing issue happening in the world right now (we all know that — it’s not even close).
To every cheerleader who isn’t a senior: You’re allowed to be heartbroken. “At least you’re not a senior” is not a comforting response. Yes, you feel lucky that you still have seasons left to cheer on your team, but it won’t be this year. It won’t be these seniors. It won’t be this stunt group, or this routine, or this exact combination of athletes and coaches that has made you love this season the way you have. This year is one-of-a-kind. It’s special to you. Having it end this way is sad. You can grieve that loss.
To every senior aging out this year: You’re allowed to be heartbroken. “You’ve had so many great experiences” is not a comforting response. “There are open teams you can cheer on” is not a comforting response. “You can cheer in college” is not a comforting response. You feel lucky that you still have opportunities to stay active in cheer, but they won’t be as a senior-aged athlete. They won’t be on the team (or maybe not even at the program) you’ve been cheering on since you were a little kid. They won’t be on the “dream team” you gave up everything to try out for halfway through your senior-aged years. It won’t be your senior year. You worked hard your entire cheerleading career; you poured hours, days, weeks, months, years, your heart, your soul into cheerleading because you love it. Aging off of senior teams is a big deal, especially if you love the one you’re on. You deserve closure. You’re allowed to be upset that you won’t get the ending you’ve always pictured. You can grieve that loss.
To every coach: You’re allowed to be heartbroken. “You’ll have plenty more teams to coach” is not a comforting response. You feel lucky that you got the time you did with this year’s team and that you’ll coach more teams (that you’ll love just as much as this one) in the future. But the thing about being a coach is that every season is like it’s own unique masterpiece. They’re your unique masterpieces. Every season, every team, every routine has a story. You’re like the ghostwriter. Your teams and your athletes, they ultimately control how it goes on the mat. But you’re behind the scenes, steering the ship, setting the tone, helping your teams and your athletes write their stories. They were writing their stories this season. In no single hypothetical scenario did they dream of writing an ending like this. You’ll be back next year, but this team won’t. You’re allowed to be sad for them, for yourself, and for what you know could have been. You can grieve that loss.
To every parent: You’re allowed to be heartbroken. “You’ve seen them at plenty of competitions” is not a comforting response. “You’ll see them accomplish so many other things” is not a comforting response. For those of you with non-senior athletes, “They’ll still have next year” is not a comforting response. You feel lucky to have witnessed this part of your child’s journey, and you know there is much more in store. But this year was a commitment, and while your child is the one who takes the mat, this is your life, too. You’ve worked overtime to pay tuition. You’ve sat in the viewing section at practice and hoped your child was doing well (and worried when you could tell they weren’t). You’ve built friendships with other parents. You’ve stood in line for entry to competitions and a good spot in priority viewing sections. You’ve driven hours and hours, and looked lovingly at the athlete in the passenger seat while they recounted thrills, disappointments, frustrations, hopes, dreams. You’ve curled hair, dry-cleaned uniforms, arranged carpools, videoed performances, did your very best to make your child feel better even when you knew you didn’t have the “cheer knowledge” to do or say the right thing. You tried your best every second, and maybe you’ll get to do it again next year. Maybe not. Either way, this season mattered. You’re watching your child experience heartbreak, and that means you’re experiencing it, too. You can grieve their loss, and the parts of it that are yours, too.
To every fan: You’re allowed to be heartbroken. “It’s not even your team,” is not a comforting response. You feel lucky to be part of the all-star cheerleading community. Social media has allowed fans to build connections with teams and athletes, to watch performances live and get inside looks at what happens in the gym, “behind the scenes.” Maybe you used to cheer, maybe you hope to cheer one day, maybe you’re cheering now. Maybe you’ve never cheered and never will. But this sport brings you joy, and one of the things about it that brings us together most, Worlds Weekend, is cancelled. You can grieve that loss.
Cheerleaders: the truth is, you’ll be okay. This is hard, but life will go on, and you’ll process this challenge and grow from it and it won’t always feel so terrible. There are bigger problems in the world, and perspective is key. It’s important to be grateful for the “big stuff” like health and safety, and understand that those things must be prioritized. But with that in mind, it’s also okay to be heartbroken about how this season ended. Don’t feel bad about that. Talk to your teammates and coaches, lean on each other for support, remember the best parts of this season and look forward to the future.
I’ve seen a million different responses to the Worlds cancellation on social media, and one thing I feel compelled to mention to all of the adults in our cheerleading community is that it’s just not helpful to dismiss or minimize the way athletes are feeling. We’re grown-ups, after all, and because of that we know that one day they’ll look back on this as just one small part of a big life they’re living. But right now, as teenagers and young adults, it does feel like the end of the world. For many of them, this is the biggest part of the lives they’ve lived so far. They might not even be able to remember a life without cheerleading. Perspective really is key, and from theirs, this feels like an overwhelming loss. I hope we can remember that and respect what they’re feeling while also giving them the guidance they need to process and move on.
Let’s spread the love this weekend!
Feature image credit: USASF