Cheer Bullies

Few things in life are all black or white –all good or all bad.

Most events have some redeeming factor or lesson to apply. Grace weasels its way in and finds the light in the darkest of nights.

But occasionally, evil rears its ugly head and I am left scratching my noggin in befuddlement.

Where is the good in this? What positive can I squeeze out of a rotten maggot infested dead rabbit?

(ahhh…but that’s another story about a rancid trashcan and a rabbit that croaked in my yard and an angry ex-husband who found the dead rabbit in the rancid trashcan because his wife didn’t know that dead rabbits need to go in other people’s trashcans)

Anyway, sometimes I ask myself, God, what the (insert an appropiately lame Christian bad word) was that sucker punch all about?

This was the question I asked myself as I left a youth football and cheer board meeting last night weeping.

Yes, weeping.

I walked through a senior center parking lot that lasted for miles and miles gulping and sobbing from a public beratement worthy of Paul and the Sanhedrin (before he turned good…when he still worked for the Dark Side).

And I asked myself once again, “What the hell is wrong with people?”

Years ago I was warned (by a wise mommy mentor) there are a few areas in life where people use unbridled power to manipulate and throw their weight around like the Patriots offensive line.

“Is it Washington politics?” I naively inquired.

“No Sam, its YOUTH SPORTS. Take heed to my words young lass and beware!”

I nodded at the wise sage and never forgot her words. And for years, playing for the Irvine Chargers and for Santa Margarita Pop Warner I had nothing but INCREDIBLE coaches, teams and experiences in football and cheerleading.

I thought I was one of the lucky ones. Sure there were the occasional squabbles and snarky remarks among parents, but overall we were tremendously blessed.

But last night those words came back to haunt me.

This year my daughter Faith was signed up for her second year to cheer for the Cowboys. Last year, her team competed in Nationals and she had a mostly positive experience. I had some concerns with extremely poor orginization within the league (not knowing the time of games until the day before…which will drive a mother of three CRAZY), but I tried to let the bad stuff go and focus on the fun. I helped out as team mom, hosted parties and provided a practice spot for the team (at no cost) at our church as a community outreach to save the league money. My husband and I went out of our way at every turn to support our girl and her team at every endeavor.

We were invested in the team like all parents who think their kids are AWESOME!

But this year things started off a little shakier.

The two oldest football teams –frustrated with the league took their ENTIRE groups of boys to another league. This left a gaping spot for the older girls.

There were no boys to cheer for in their age group.

My almost teen daughter would have to cheer for eight-year old boys.

And for a twelve-year-old girl this =MORTIFICATION.

Faith spent an entire night crying her eyes out. We asked her to pray and consider.

Then we got an e-mail saying her coach quit.

The game had changed. Faith tearfully asked if she could not cheer with this team.

She signed up to cheer for a MIDGET team but was faced with cheering for the MUNCHKINS.

I asked for a refund. Simple enough, right? I paid almost $400 and asked for my money back.

I was sent an e-mail saying I had to appear before the board.

Huh?

(Actually, I was sent five e mails with different times and dates and enough confusion to drive me crazy just regarding the board meeting)

So, I showed up at the firing squad (whoops –board meeting) where a group of YOUTH FOOTBALL Nazi’s terrorized me.

I was questioned, berated, interrogated and verbally beaten down to tears because I asked for a refund.

And then the questions arose as licked my wounded pride back at home?

Are the Cowboys in so much debt and disarray they can’t provide a refund for a kid who requested their money back over a month before practice started?

I was told “this is a business and we counted on your money.” “Even if kids get hurt we don’t provide a refund.” “Has your daughter been publicly shamed?”

My favorite was “How about a credit for next year?” –after I was already choking up. (like I wanted to come back and join this party again?)

And then like robots they repeated over and over a pre-planned message (clearly previously discussed) about what an honor it is to cheer for little boys almost half the age of my daughter.

And I understood why the two older teams picked up and left and took their boys with them. And why the Cowboys were allegedly kicked out of their previous league two years ago after a board member added seconds on the clock to overturn a game and let the Cowboys win.

Will somebody stop this reign of terror and stand up to these bullies?

I might have cried last night –but like little David facing Goliath, I’m just warming up my slingshot.

Have you had experience with youth sports?

We’ve Got (the) Spirit ,Yes We Do! We’ve Got Spirit, How About You?

Sometimes the title of “Christian” makes me cringe. 

I love God.  I walk beside Jesus and I believe his Word to be true, but when I see Christians browbeat others with rules I want to hide my fishy bumper sticker and run.

In a bizarre series of events a girl on my daughter’s cheer team went AWOL.  It’s not a big deal normally when a girl quits a team, but it’s a big deal when the girl quits the team the day after the group has won a spot to Nationals.  Without the sixteen members the team would be forced to forfeit.

The coaches suggested finding another girl to replace her.  The girl was not on our roster although she was of the same age and skill.  There are rules to protect teams from adding a “ringer” or a girl with superior skills, but this instance was not aimed at gaining an unfair advantage.  If anything, the replacement was more of a disadvantage in the added effort and time spent to bring her up to speed—although the switch might not have technically adhered to the letter of the law. It was a gray area scenario they wanted to investigate further.  They acknowledged that if someone wanted to make a big deal regarding the replacement the team could be disqualified.  They asked the parents if we were willing to take the risk.

All of the parents agreed to move forward understanding the consequences.

One mother walked up to the emergency meeting late.  She had not heard the full and detailed explanation but only picked up the last few words of the conversation.  She then interrupted, “I will not have my daughter be a part of anything questionable. I am a strong Christian and I don’t think this promotes the right values.  If we decide to move forward this way I am pulling her out.”

She walked off grumbling about how the Holy Spirit made her speak up in the midst of deceit.

If she had stopped for a moment and turned around she might have noticed the havoc her words left; in her wake of righteousness stood fifteen girls –including her daughter sobbing their hearts out. 

Now missing two girls, the coaches threw up their hands and canceled the rest of the season.  All their hard work went down the drain –in the name of being a “good Christian.”

OUCH!

Now if the Holy Spirit told her to speak up then by all means she needed to voice her concerns.  We are all held accountable to God for our actions. 

But I have to wonder if this wasn’t an example of the spirit of the law vs. the law?  Were these girls hurting anyone? No.  Were they trying to steal or cheat their way into an award? No.  They simply wanted a chance to compete –something they earned. The letter of the law is the rule that is put in place “not to add a un-rostered member.”  The spirit of the law is “don’t bring in a highly skilled cheerleader to get an advantage.”

I don’t know the mind of Christ.  His will is a mystery.  But I do know he was a bit of a rebel.  He healed on the Sabbath; he touched lepers and bleeding women and Samaritans.  He messed with the money changers and turned over tables in a fit of anger. 

And I imagine he might care more for the hearts of impressionable young girls than for a rulebook made up by a bunch of business savvy/aging cheerleaders who charge way too much money to let our girls climb on a stage and perform. 

Was this an issue of integrity or legalism?  While I don’t disagree with the focus on honesty I do take issue with self-righteousness in the name of Christianity.  It seems like what the parents and the girls heard that night was “because I am Christian, you don’t get to compete.” 

Only 16 percent of non-Christian young people under 30 say they have a “good impression” of Christianity, and a mere 3 percent feel that way about evangelical Christianity, according to the Barna Group, a Christian market research organization. As recently as the 1990s a majority of non-Christians viewed Christianity favorably.”

Research reveals that young people today consider their churches as fear-based, risk-averse, isolated, shallow, antagonistic to science, simplistic and judgmental about sexuality, and inhospitable to questions or doubts.

The biggest complaint on the under 30 crowd is that “Christianity in today’s society no longer looks like Jesus.”

Fortunately, our coaches found an airtight and “100% by the cheer rulebook” way to work in a new girl which I am confident they would have done to begin with, because their credibility was on the line too. 

God did provide another way, one I think we are all more comfortable with.  I believe the rules are in place to protect although in some instances I believe the heart trumps being right for right’s sake.

I’m thrilled my kid still gets a chance to compete, but I still have a sour taste for the damage done to young girls who will never forget the night the “Christian lady” crushed their fragile hearts.

 Source of Photo: http://pinterest.com/hannahschliep/

Herding Kittens…

A few days ago, I had a disturbing incident while herding kittens across the mall parking lot. Ok, maybe they were cheerleaders…but it felt strangely similar. My daughter’s cheer squad is composed of ten girls between the ages of eight and twelve.  Imagine a pre-pubescent tapestry of girl drama, crazed Justin Bieber fans, and fragile hormones in bloom.  Get the picture?

So the little cats, I mean cheerleaders, had an all day practice at the church to prepare for competition.  Once the whining started, their cheer coach, called a time-out and we headed over to the food court at the mall for lunch.  The mall is in walking distance from the church, but can be a treacherous journey because of the steep hill and few sidewalks.  On top of the danger factor, I had the baby with me, harnessed securely in her stroller, so the mama bear factor was in full effect.  I was a fierce woman protecting her baby and cheer cubs.

On the way back, full of Sprite and tacos, the girls were extra boisterous, and the coach and I cajoled and pleaded with the girls to stay on the side-walk.  They gave each other piggy back rides, gossiped, yelled out cheers at the top of their lungs, and made sure that all cars passing by noticed their utter cuteness. I felt somewhat helpless trying to corral them, but I gave it my best shot.  We tried a different route on the way back, hoping for a little less anxiety, but inevitably we rounded another corner with no sidewalk.  Very carefully, I instructed the girls to hug the side of the street, and we marched two by two around the turn.  In the blink of an eye, a woman driving a white Mercedes whipped around the corner, in the wrong lane, and headed straight for us.  Fortunately, she made eye contact at the last second and swerved out-of-the-way.

The coach yelled at her to slow down.  So the lady obliged.  She slowed down long enough to give us a dirty look and glare at us. In my best pastor’s wife voice I said, “Please, go ahead and speed back up.  I am sure you can kill someone else!”

Ok, maybe that was Satan’s voice, but I did say it in a syrupy sweet tone. In response, she whipped her finger out of the car, shouted an expletive beginning with F… and ending with You, and then used the corresponding hand motion.  This woman actually flipped off a baby, two mothers and a passel of cheerleaders.  What is the world coming to?

The girls were shocked and I was stunned.   The coach and I looked at each other in disbelief. This woman, who had almost killed a group of children while driving in the wrong lane, and speeding no less, had just given us the bird.  Please tell me how you explain that to a group of little girls. 

“Girls, the psycho lady didn’t mean to act so ugly, she was just having a bad day.”

In all reality, we were too frightened to say much.  The near brush with death had sobered up even the most hyper girls of the bunch, and for a few moments, all were subdued. But little girls have short memories, and soon their gaiety returned, albeit…their steps were more careful and their eyes more alert.

I have to wonder though, what kind of hurry was the lady in? Was a sale at the mall worth a life in prison for vehicular manslaughter?  Is any event, appointment, or momentary drama worth risking a life for? 

And most importantly…where do I need to slow down in my life and stop taking dangerous short-cuts?

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