Why I’m proud to call myself a ‘Diva’


I thought I’d switch things up a bit this week. Normally I like to write from a third person perspective, offering one viewpoint on whatever takes my fancy in the sporting world. Look through some of my recent stuff and count how many times the word ‘I’ is  used. I’m pretty certain the number won’t be high, whereas here it’s already been used three times in the space of half a paragraph. This is because I don’t like to self-indulge; I would much rather talk about other people, things, anything rather than me. And not just when I’m writing, in general life. However, recent events have taught me that I probably should care more about myself; I should take myself seriously. This post is, I guess, me making a start on doing that. The problem is, it’s bloody difficult when you’re not used to it!

As I sit here writing this, I’ve already had to stop typing with my (preferred) left hand because it’s too painful. I have a line of pain running from my little finger right up through my forearm to my elbow; I can’t turn my neck without it hurting; the entire left side of my back is causing me great discomfort. On top of this, I’m currently going through self-managed rehab as a result of suffering a serious foot injury 13 weeks ago. Yet I still insist there’s nothing really wrong with me, that I don’t deserve the sympathy of others, because what I’ve got is nothing in comparison to most. And, to me, it’s not. I’ve been in pain every day since I was about 11 years old. This is nothing new to me and, as long as I can still do things, then I will. I don’t even think of the potential consequences.

It was this attitude that meant I risked permanent disability not so long ago. Just three days after tearing most of the ligaments in my foot, I did four cheerleading routines in one day. A week after that I did a national competition whilst barely being able to walk. Stupid isn’t it? I knew as soon as I did it that it was a serious injury – I’d never been in such pain and the audible sound of tearing tissue was, let’s say, not pleasant. Yet I still insisted on walking home (which was over a mile away) with my cricket bag, training the next day and doing the aforementioned competitions. It wasn’t until I saw a physio seven weeks later that I realised the potential severity of my actions. I was told that if I’d rolled my foot again the ligaments may never have healed properly and I wouldn’t be able to walk properly again.

How I did what I did is beyond me; I was in absolute agony. Actually that’s complete rubbish, I know the exact reason why I carried on – I was not going to let my squads down. When I first took up cheerleading, I wrote an article expressing how great I thought it was. However, even then I never envisaged how much a part of my life it would become. I have never enjoyed anything so much and a large part of that has to be down to the people. I’ve been doing team sports since the age of four but have always felt like an outsider, never part of the group. That’s largely of my own doing, I know that. However, when I first joined the Durham Divas Junior Varsity team this year I was immediately welcomed and made to feel like part of the team. This was one of the weirdest experiences of my life – people actually wanted to talk to and get to know me! Normally it takes me a long time to make friends, but within a handful of sessions I felt like I knew nearly everyone on the squad.

This is not to say I don’t have some great friends in other walks of life, but there is something about doing a sport with so much potential danger that does bring people together in a unique way. Right from the very start everyone was great to me and that is why I ignored the pain and risked everything to compete in those competitions; I wanted to repay everyone for how good they had been to me. It wasn’t a selfish act, it wasn’t me being stubborn and refusing to let all the hard work ‘go to waste,’ and it certainly wasn’t for an ego boost. I just didn’t want to let anyone down.

Last night, at the annual end-of-year meal, I was handed an award. This isn’t something especially new as I have been fortunate enough to win a few cricketing trophies over the years. But this award was different; it was given to me by my peers, not a coach. On top of this, I was nominated in some of the awards we as a squad voted for. Whilst I may not have won any of these, the fact that I was even thought about is incredulous for me. I’m the guy normally left as an afterthought, one of the last to be picked in PE and stuff like that.

When given my award, I was embarrassed. I was delighted to win it of course, but I’m not used to praise; I genuinely find it really difficult to deal with. I am much happier acknowledging the hard work of others. I was also very embarrassed when thanked for helping out with the all-girl Varsity squad. I felt like I had no need to be thanked, I was just helping out in a time of need and I was honoured to even be asked. The fact that my fellow cheerleaders have thought about me and recognised my effort is extremely humbling and I cannot thank them enough.

It’s not just praise I find difficult, it’s talking about myself in general. Emotions are particularly hard for me to express. Not because I’m a guy and it’s not a ‘masculine’ thing to do, but because I’ve learned that it’s best not to show feelings. I guess I probably did it in the wrong ways when I was younger and now just avoid it altogether. I’ve never really told anyone what really goes on in my head. However, I feel as though I’ve now found one or two friends through cheer who I feel, one day, I may be able to fully open up to. They’ll probably regret putting themselves in that position should I ever do that but it really means a lot to have friends who I feel want to listen.

In the past nine months I have met some truly incredible people whilst with the Divas and have been made to feel wanted and respected and I hope that I’ve repaid this. I can say without hesitation that I’m immensely proud to train and compete alongside them and cannot wait to do so again in the near future. Apologies for the lengthiness of this post (there’s so much more I could have said) and hope you managed to make it this far without getting bored/fed up with how much I’ve talked about myself. I guess I’ll probably get a fair bit of stick for this but, you know what, I don’t care. However, normal service will be resumed next time, I promise!

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