Sixteen-year-old, Riley Murphy, has been a part of the Rock Starz All Stars cheer family for many years. As an athlete on their SR Small coed worlds team, Diamonds, she loves her team and is happy to be a part of such a great organization. To Riley, being a Rock Star means you are a part of a community; another place to call home. Her favorite thing about being a Rock Star is the coaches and her teammates. Riley never dreads going to the gym. She enjoys going there to work hard, learn new skills and do her very best.
Riley’s road to being a level 5 athlete has not been easy. After being on a level 5 team that did not get the opportunity to perform, all she desired was to finally be on a team where she could show off her years of hard work in the gym.
Last May, Rock Starz cheer organization brought back their level 5 cheer team, Diamonds. Without a doubt, Riley was thrilled! After trying out and making Diamonds, she was ready to take on the choreography-filled summer season with her teammates. Unfortunately, a few days in, things quickly changed.
On June 6, 2016, Riley was at tumbling practice when one of her worst nightmares as an athlete became a reality. In the beginning of practice, she had come down wrong doing a round off back handspring double and tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), and meniscus. There are four major ligaments in the knee and each plays an important part in enabling the body to run, walk, jump and pivot. After tearing 3 of the 4, Riley knew this would not be good for her upcoming cheer season.
Riley’s injury entailed a long recovery process. Her doctor informed her she would need major surgery and a series of physical therapy sessions. On August 15, 2016, she went to the hospital to undergo a scary 7-hour surgery that would help heal her ligaments. After the surgery, she would see her physical therapist 3 times a week and her doctor once every 3 months. The doctors were projecting that she would be cleared to practice and compete by June 2017. Unfortunately, her season on Diamonds would have ended by that time.
Riley was crushed by her injury, but she didn’t let it crush her spirit. She was motivated by teammates, family and coaches to do better each day. The amount of support and love from peers was overwhelming. Even when she was out of the gym, the Rock Starz family always included her in activities and events. They visited her after surgery, texted her about the progress she’s made with her therapists and doctors, and often expressed that they missed her. They even made her the first ever “ath-leader” of the month; an honor awarded to an athlete that shows a great deal of leadership within their organization.
Riley injury didn’t stop her from being a dedicated athlete. Although she couldn’t compete, Riley made sure she was there for her teammates, as they were for her. She loved watching them practice and compete. To her team, it almost felt like she never left. She would often attend practice and she never missed a single competition during the season. Her injury may have stopped her from being on the floor, but her passion continued to thrive. Watching them made her want to do better and heal quicker. Watching practice from afar, she got to see the coach’s perspective and soon realized that “even at the worst times, we come together.”
After months of physical therapy, Riley is excited to get back on the floor, competing and tumbling alongside her team. Her biggest accomplishment as an injured athlete was her successful recovery process. Her doctors predicted she would be out for a year, but she came back to stunt at the 7-month mark! Her remarkable recovery process is amazing and it truly inspired dozens of cheer athletes at Rock Starz All Stars to be the best they can be as well.
As Riley was wrapping up a successful healing process, her team was wrapping up a successful cheer season. For the first time in Rock Starz history, their SR Small level 5 team, Diamonds, received a full paid bid to The Cheerleading Worlds! This accomplishment was huge for their organization and it couldn’t have been done without a year of hard work and dedication from every team member, including Riley, who fortunately got to compete for the first time this season during that very competition!
Being a Rock Star has impacted Riley’s life in many ways: “When you are a Rock Star, you are surrounded by a community of people that always motivate you to push harder and never stop trying.” In the past year, she has learned the true meaning of being on a team. Without the support of her Rock Starz family, her hardship may have been the end of her career as a cheer athlete.