When family and friends describe Cheryl Spotts, they use words like kind, compassionate, caring, patient, selfless, athletic and fun. Cheryl was all those things and more, but perhaps the most amazing thing about Cheryl is that she made these amazing characteristics look effortless.
She wasn't the over-the-top cheerleader kind of kindness; she was genuine, all-in, whatever you need quiet kindness. She didn't wave the pompoms but there was no bigger cheerleader than Cheryl to anyone who knew her. She was always in your corner. In fact, she would wave pompoms for you if you asked. She was the steady, calm presence in your life that you always knew was there when you needed it, without asking.
It isn't until you stop to think about it that you realize how truly amazing Cheryl was. Because she was quiet (for the most part) and never wanted the spotlight shined on her, you could tell that being an incredible person was inherent in her DNA. She was just there for you in such a gentle and unassuming way that it was amazing and all too easy to take for granted.
It wasn't until sitting with her mother and some soccer family and sharing stories that we realized we had never seen Cheryl mad at anyone. She was so patient and kind to everyone.
Most of us wish that she was as patient and kind to herself as she was to us. As a fierce competitive athlete on the soccer field, she would never blame one of her defenders for any goals the other team scored, even when it was our fault. Instead, she would be upset with herself for not stopping a goal, even if it was the most perfect shot you've ever seen and even Hope Solo herself couldn't have stopped it.
Cheryl would punch the goal post and apologize to her teammates if the other team scored. It wouldn't matter to her if her defenders made a mistake and let a girl get by or if her defenders stepped out of the way and gave a player an open shot; she would still tell you it wasn't your fault.
We will still be able to hear some of those conversations lingering over the soccer field at Lions Park each Sunday morning. "Cheryl, I'm sorry, that goal was my fault. I should have had that ball," we'd tell her. "That's OK," she'd say. "I should have had it."
It was often odd to see someone so competitive be so understanding and kind. But, kindness and understanding are part of who Cheryl was. It was likely the wonderful upbringing by loving and devoted parents. Anyone who met Trish and Doug, Cheryl's parents, could see how much they all loved and supported each other. Trish would even be in Cheryl's corner at a boxing match even though it probably hurt her more than Cheryl every time the other boxer landed a punch.
Knowing Cheryl, when she'd knock out an opponent, she was the first to help them back up. She is definitely the kind of athlete you would see helping a competitor across a finish line. She did that in many ways many times. There are countless stories but one of our favorites is when Cheryl, Renee and Christine competed a few times in a Triathlon on Sanibel. One year, Cheryl and Renee did the race together. They'd train and encourage each other.
One day, Cheryl asked Renee, "Do you have a good bike? I have one you can use."
Renee said "that would be great." Then, during the race, Renee noticed Cheryl was riding a beach bike — yes, a beach bike in a Triathlon. She had to pump those pedals hard. Renee told Cheryl to use the better bike but Cheryl insisted she wanted Renee to have it and do well in the race.
Cheryl visited a friend in the hospital, helped a friend through a desperate time by calling and coming by every day, served as a caregiver for her father, and so much more.
Many of us have struggled coping with losing Cheryl way too soon. She was there for us and many of us question if we were there for her. But, we are starting to understand that Cheryl knew we loved her. She knew she could call any of us any time day or night. We have to come to terms with the fact she didn't want to "burden" any of us. No matter how much we wanted to change that, Cheryl took on the world and all its troubles by herself. She did talk about it but she never wanted you to know how much something impacted her and she didn't want to give you anything else to worry about.
Cheryl was always someone who cared about others more than herself. That would never change. That's part of what made her absolutely amazing. But in our eyes, she wouldn't have had to do anything and we'd still love and support her.
As soccer family, we are thankful and blessed to have had Cheryl Spotts in our life. To say she enriched our lives is truly an understatement. There are so many great stories to share and far too many acts of kindness to recount. But those memories will help get us through these tough times and help carry us through the rest of the ups and downs of life. She will be with us always.