I was at a volleyball tournament this weekend. All of our schools were competing. In one particular match, our team lost by two in two close games. I was frustrated for them, and I was annoyed by the loud cheering of the opposing parents. I was annoyed. How dare they cheer when our team was having a rough time. Are you kidding Heather? Of course they are cheering. Our parents are cheering too. Everyone deserves a cheer section. Every kid needs a champion.
I took a breath, cheered both teams for a battle well fought, and reflected on the people who’ve cheered for me over the years. I’ve been lucky. My kids have been lucky. Family and friends and teachers and coaches have encouraged us and celebrated with us and pushed us to persevere. We all need someone in our corner, someone on our side.
Someone I care about ran his first marathon yesterday. An incredible accomplishment. He planned and trained and prepared and ran. And it was not easy. He is an amazing athlete, but it did not go the way he envisioned. By mile 18 he had hit a rough patch. He had to slow down; he was in pain; and he thought seriously about withdrawing. But in that moment, he had someone in his corner. He wrote later about how this friend knew what to say to encourage him, to support him, and to help him find the inner strength to finish. He had a champion in that moment who made all the difference.
I’ve heard story after story about athletes who were at their breaking point when a coach or a teammate or a parent stepped in to provide the words needed to help them persevere. And those moments are more moving than the most amazing victories.
In every school in every town in every state, teachers do that for students every day. They sit by them as they work out the hardest problems. They pull them in after school to review and review until it makes sense. In the past week, I’ve been at a celebration for students who scored over 30 on their ACT and seen the same level of celebration for students at any score who worked for a 3 point jump. Every kid needs a champion.
This week I’d challenge you to look for the opportunities to be the person who walks alongside a friend and provides the support to help them overcome an obstacle. I’d challenge you to be the coach or the teacher who helps a child know that someone is in their corner. And I’d challenge you to be the parent who cheers and celebrates in victory and defeat. Everyone deserves a cheer section. Every kid needs a champion.