Sports teach you all kinds of lessons. You learn how to throw a ball. You learn how to shoot a basket, or score a goal. In my case, I learned how to catch a flyer so that she wouldn’t get hurt. But, there is one lesson that I learned through cheerleading that has stuck with me my entire life. It had nothing to do with how to get higher jumps, or how to throw a basket toss. Instead, the quality of being a team player is what has sat with me throughout my life, and I can attribute that to being a cheerleader.

Whether it’s in my career, in my relationships, or maintaining my friendships, teamwork definitely is a quality that I learned from cheerleading.

I will never forget my senior year of high school: it was the day before my 18th birthday, and we had a practice right before our Senior Night of basketball season. There was a lot going on. Earlier that week, we had gotten our mid-semester grades, and a teammate had failed off the team. Scrambling before our biggest basketball game of the season, and just a few days before our state competition, my coach began moving team members around, trying to fill in the spot we had just lost.

My stunt group–who had been working together since summer practices–got picked apart. Some teammates became front spots for other groups, and I had been placed as a back spot to one of the weaker groups on the team. While my teammates were doing advanced stunt sequences, starting with tick ups and ending with twist downs, the extent of our skills was a solid liberty.

I went home from practice upset, feeling overlooked and not needed. It was my senior year, and in my eyes, all that was important was being in the center stunt group so that I could do the hardest skills on the team. I explained to my brother–who had zero cheer experience–about what a terrible night I had, and I told him that he just couldn’t understand. But, he did understand, and what he said was harsh but true: in a team sport, it’s not about what’s best for each player; instead it’s what’s best for the team. Definitely a good lesson to learn my first day of being an ‘adult’.

As I got older and began coaching myself, I started my season with this message to my teams: you are not here as a cheerleader, but as a team of athletes, and you are only as good as the lowest jumper on the team. Motivate and push each other to make each other better, for your team as a whole! You don’t get a score sheet at the end of a competition that says Jumps -2 (but that one girl in the front, you get a 7). You get one score as a team, so it doesn’t matter how good one person is.

Being a team player is a quality you have to have for your entire life. Whether it is in sports, doing a task you don’t necessarily want to at work, or helping out a friend in a time of need, always remember the time you stepped into a stunt group you didn’t want to for the sake of the team as a whole.

Do you think there are more important lessons you learn from cheerleading than teamwork? Tell us what you think in the comments!