They squeezed each other’s hands tighter than they ever have before, not because of hurt, but because of love. Kneeling in the circle on the floor, they waited for the results. But for the first time, in a very long time, whatever the judges called out didn’t matter.
“That’s the first time we’ve sat there and been okay with not winning,” said Kallie Mellor, co-captain of the Spiriteers, “and just proud to be with each other, proud of each other, and just loving each other. I feel like that really unified us.”
This year has been different for the drill team at NS. They have faced many struggles as individuals and as a team.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries,” assistant coach Cali Fowels said. “We’ve had some girls that have had to leave the team, and new coaches. Both Alisa and I are brand new coaches this year, so learning to work with each other has been a trial.”
Along with this, their team also has a lot fewer girls than last year. Through these struggles their success has been affected. They usually are one of the most successful sports at NS, taking region three times and 2nd place at state four times. But now they have had to adapt to not always winning.
“Going from hearing your name called out first at every competition to not even hearing your name be called out, even though we’ve accepted it, it still hurts,” Mellor said.
This year at region they placed 2nd in military. Which was a large achievement for their team, because they have something to show for their excruciating work.
For some of the girls it has been hard to take on these challenges with a smile.
“Life lessons in sports suck,” said Ava Lamb, head captain. “You cry a lot. I’ve cried, I don’t even know how many times this year.”
Drill is a highly complex sport and with all the changes on their team, it changes their routines drastically.
The girls realize that much of what happens throughout their season, including the results at competitions, are out of their hands, which can be difficult.
“It’s also hard to be happy with the best you can do,” Lamb said. “When you go from winning, winning, winning, it’s hard to be okay with winning isn’t everything, and it’s not. I think that’s the biggest lesson that we’ve needed to learn this year, is that sometimes it’s okay not to win.”
This year’s coaches took a different approach to teaching what the sport should be about. They wanted to focus on building a positive environment and wanted to create strong relationships between the girls.
“I feel as a coach your responsibility is to make sure the girls are having a great experience regardless of placement,” Fowels said.
Currently head coach Alisa Williams has left due to having a baby, but plans on coming back as soon as possible. Williams still attends everything she can and is involved with the process. Currently Fowles has been in charge of the practices.
Although it was very difficult for the girls to get past the success part of the sport, they have become very close with their team and feel valued on their team.
“In the beginning of the season they were super prioritizing the social aspect and making sure girls were heard,” Lamb said, “because some girls felt like they weren’t heard with our last coaches.”
Their coaches not only wanted the girls to become closer to each other, but to also have them rely on them as a safe space.
“We’ve really pushed to try and get to know each girl,” Fowels said. “We’ve harbored an environment where the girls are comfortable to talk to us about things.”
They view this year as a stepping stone and one for learning. The transition to new coaches isn’t easy, but they feel like the future is going to be successful.
Recently the girls realized that they’ve needed to regain their drive. They placed 4th at multiple competitions in the beginning of the season, which left them feeling a bit defeated and discouraged. But remembering why they joined this sport has changed their views completely.
“I didn’t join drill because I knew we were going to take region. I didn’t join drill to get the trophy, I joined drill because I love to dance,” Lamb said.
Lamb believes that the team will only get better from here and can see the spark of hope uniting in the girls before their upcoming competitions.
“We have no choice but to have faith in ourselves,” Lamb said. “It’s our only decision. Having to have that faith in each other has brought us together more.”
Although it might seem like the team is struggling from an outside perspective, the growth and lessons learned from this season are priceless to the team.
“From a worldly view if we aren’t winning every single competition then it doesn’t pay off, but that’s not true at all,” Lamb said.
The team recently came up with a motto to finish off the little time of the season they have left, and it represents their story perfectly: “Together through it all.” To them it does not matter how they will place, but how they got there and what they learned.