Being on a competitive traveling cheerleading team is difficult enough for any teenager. It is especially difficult being the only boy on a team with all girls, but also being a boy who who might act a little different from the others. Meet Noah, the most intelligent, sensitive and caring person that you would ever meet. He has a lot of friends and is confident person. He hasn’t always been so confident though.
He joined the team in August 2016 as a first time cheerleader, looking for something new and active that he enjoyed. Almost immediately, people on our cheerleading team would bully him. It started off as the girls talking in groups about him at practice and staring at him when they passed him in the locker room because he was overweight. They would talk behind his back, saying things like "No offense, but he’s too fat to cheer” or “What is wrong with him?”
These girls were a constant reminder to Noah that he wasn’t like the others. Some girls on the team made it obvious that they were talking about him and Noah started to wonder what they were talking about. “Was it him? What was wrong with him?”he constantly wondered to himself.
He started to become depressed and withdrawn and would not show up to many practices, despite practice being mandatory for everyone. Everytime he came out of the practices he did attend, I would see him trying to fight back tears and him yelling at his mother for forcing him to stay on the team.
The girls on the cheerleading team were mean to him often. They only talked to and accepted the people that they had known from previous years. Noah was not one of them. It was his first year and his mother wanted him to make some new friends, do something more physically active and possibly lose some weight.
Some of my friends that I had known for years had been talking about him and bullying him, but I never got involved. Noah was always just sitting on the side of the mat looking down at his shoes. He didn’t want to be there. In his eyes, he was just something for everyone to stare at and talk about.
I started going up to him during the practices that he went to and got his phone number. I started including him in fun team bonding parties and encouraging him to hang out with us. At first he was very shy and people started talking about him right in front of him. Despite this, I continued to be nice to him. He was my base in one of my stunts and he would stretch me every practice.
I would sit with him on the mat at the beginning of practices and encourage him to do a good back walkover with pointed toes. In return he made sure that I did what I was supposed to do in the stunt by stretching me at each practice and giving me suggestions of how I could improve. We soons were good friends and it was my kindness that started rubbing off on other people on my team.
He and the some of the other members of my cheer team started to look past his speech-impediment and insecurities. Eventually he started coming to more practices and was hanging out with the team more often. Not everyone on the team accepted him, but only the ones that matter. Standing up for other people impacts my life because even though I had lost a friend or two in the process, it is important for me to stick to my morals and do what I feel is the right thing to do.
This story has some very important lessons about self-doubt and bullying that I hope others can notice and think twice about before putting someone down.