Letter from the locker room: Sideline Cheer

Pushing through and pushing forward in the year in which nothing went according to plan

Dear Birdcage,

My name is Bailey and I’m a senior on the varsity sideline cheer team at Oak Park High School.

This year has brought a first semester which is unconventional, to say the least. In previous years, the cheer team usually spent our summers conditioning together, sweating under the unforgiving midday sun and our Friday nights rooting for our football team under the blinding lights of the track. Instead, we spent this summer training together via (laggy) Zoom calls and now practice in small pods spaced out around the track and football field. 

Is it disheartening? Absolutely. I mean, I doubt that any of this year’s seniors had hoped to spend their final season getting all glammed up only to be filmed for a video that would be shown the following week. That’s not even to mention the freshmen, who are vying for their chances in the spotlight, and the sophomores and juniors, who got their first tastes of the adrenaline rush and now have to revert back to — well, very little.

Admittedly, I think we’re all feeling the effects of performing virtually. No rallies, no football games, no crowd in which we can search for our friends’ and families’ faces. 

At the same time, though, I think we’re grateful for the chance to do anything at all. We still get to see each other on a somewhat regular basis (though from six feet away), and we’ve had the chance to meet and learn from a couple of new coaches. We bonded through laughing at the terrible lag in calls rather than crying at cheer camp, and grew close to one another with weekly FaceTime calls instead of end-of-summer-conditioning pool parties. 

Above all, I’m proud of the team for persevering through circumstances which would never be described as “ideal.” We push through in the same ways that the families and faculty of the Oak Park school district push through: with a few complaints, for sure, but also the determination to always put forth the most effort that we can. 

What we can do now is what we have always done: our best. Our “best” may be relative — given the world’s current situation — but we’ve committed ourselves to never stop pushing for better. The cheer team continues to look to the future with hope for improvement and opportunities to show that we never quite forgo our winning smiles. 


Bailey Andera