A couple of weeks ago, Steve and I witnessed one of the strangest high school football games we’d ever seen. Our home team won 76-0, but what was happening across the field was troubling.
The home stands were filled. The band kept a solid repertoire of rousing music and cadences going. The cheerleaders stirred us up and threw plastic footballs into the crowd after each touchdown. Hundreds of nachos, burgers, sacks of popcorn and drinks were consumed. All of the normal Friday night happenings happened.
But, on the other side, it was the complete opposite.
I could count only a dozen or so in the visiting stands, and a few of those were actually the overflow from the home crowd. There were no cheerleaders or banners. Not a single blast from a trumpet or beat of a random drum.
The visiting team’s uniforms were white, devoid of decoration or color. The team members appeared to be lacking even the most basic skills or game strategy, such as not running the ball out of the end zone on a kick-off when an opponent stood at the 1 yard line ready to trounce. The home team’s defense scored almost as many points as the offense, because of poor ball handling skills. From what I could tell, the visiting team’s bus driver kept the motor running — likely anticipating an early departure.
By the time the second half started, some “mercy rules” were established. Two 8-minute quarters without stopping the clock except for heat breaks made short work of the massacre. We learned that even though it was the sixth game of the season, the visiting team had yet to score a single point.
That team desperately needed cheerleaders. They needed moms and dads screaming their heads off for every completed pass or first down — and there were a few. I wish our coaches had figured out a way to let them score and then encourage the whole home crowd to stand and cheer their effort. They fiercely needed a taste of victory to jumpstart their appetites for better, for more. How were they able to keep going out on the field once the score got so high in the other team’s favor? For that matter, where were they finding the courage and the motivation to keep showing up for practices? Why were there no cheerleaders or band members? And, most of all, why, oh why, were there no parents to lend even a tiny bit of moral support?
We ALL need cheerleaders. Life can get hard. We’re not going to win every game. We need someone or several someones pushing us from behind, whispering instructions in our ears, showing us how to improve and applauding our efforts at making even small amounts of progress.
My mother was the cheerleader in our family. We were devastated when she died suddenly. My dad, brother, sister and I struggled until my dad remarried, and our stepmother became a new cheerleader for us. Then, she also died, and our dad died. Now, we have to keep each other cheered and encouraged.
With my husband and children, I believe we each use our unique personalities to cheer each other in different ways and at different times. One might soothe, while another points to a carefully-constructed list of logical points. One might “whip into shape” while another makes us laugh. One just listens and hugs. And then, we switch roles and stay on track. Sometimes family members are the cheerleaders. Other times friends fulfill those needs.
Who are your cheerleaders? How do they keep you moving in a forward direction?
For whom are YOU a cheerleader? Is God bringing the name or face to your mind of someone who needs an encouraging nudge from a person who truly cares?
I believe we need to turn on our Cheerleader Radars and zero in on someone who’s thinking of quitting the team. Someone who’s wondering, “What’s the use?” Someone who’s had more losses than wins.