I made the hardest decision of my 25 year-old life on Monday, and today I felt its effects in full force. After two years of coaching cheerleading, this week I finally told my girls that I won’t be continuing on next year. And earlier tonight, we had our last practice of the season, a time that can only be described as bittersweet.
Practices are where the heart and soul of a team come together. It’s where I get the opportunity to teach skills, listen to their stories, and hopefully offer some useful insight. Yes, games are an important time to showcase our hard work, but practices are where the relationships that make this decision so difficult are formed.
After my girls left tonight I sat in that empty gym and just cried. Straight up sobbed like a fool for no one else but the creepy janitor in the hallway to hear.
I pictured all of the girls that I have coached in that gym over two years, all the times they made me laugh, drove me crazy, taught me something new about myself, rolled their eyes at me, complained about conditioning, relied on me for advice, and most importantly, shouted “Thanks, Coach!” or “Love ya, Coach!” It played like a movie in my mind. Closing the door on those memories was heartbreaking. Even as I type this I’m still shaking my head at the decision i’ve made, naively hoping that maybe some miracle solution will drop out of the sky.
Yet in truth, this is the best choice for me and the life I know I want to continue to make for myself. Now that cheerleading is ruled as an official sport in New York State, my commitment time would have doubled next year, and there would be a demand for extra flexibility that I simply do not have anymore.
So I chose me: I chose my career and the opportunity to get better at my craft each and every day. I chose a lifestyle with more time for family, friends, traveling, yoga, writing, and other elements that give me happiness in an entirely different way.
For two full years, I made room in my life for coaching. I worked late to make up for hours lost when I had to leave the office early; turned down dinners with friends and networking events; answered texts from concerned parents at 6 a.m.; put literally thousands of extra miles on my car; sacrificed time with my family because I had practice or a game… the list goes on.
But I also had the rare opportunity to positively impact over thirty high school girls in the best way that I knew how. I saw them improve right before my eyes, celebrated their joys and worked through their frustrations, and now believe without a shadow of a doubt that if nothing else, they know they can depend on me if they ever need anything, whether they’re 15 or 50.
Life tends to hand us critical choices that demand to be made. Unfortunately many of them are both difficult and also right for us.
So what do you do? In most cases, the answer is simple: ask yourself, would you do it again? Would you relive the experience just as it was?
I would. And that’s something to be grateful for.