Despite not making the team, 13-year-old Emmie Tallent wasn’t about to be benched.

Being cut from a school team can be a difficult experience for a kid. Sure, it can help build resilience but it comes at a cost (usually heartbreak, a sucker punch to self-esteem, and copious amounts of mint chocolate chip ice cream).

But when 13-year-old Emmie Tallent (who has Down syndrome) didn’t make her school’s cheer squad she responded in the most epic way possible — she cheered anyway.

The determined girl took to the sidelines while her Chattanooga, Tennessee school’s cheer squad performed inside their gymnasium. And she danced, matching the entire routine, move for move.

Her 22-year-old sister, Sydnee, captured it all on video and now? It’s capturing all our hearts.

After Being Cut From the Squad, 13-Year-Old Girl Comes Out Cheering

In an Instagram reel that’s gone viral with over 3 million views and 87,000 likes, Emmie, dressed in a black dress and tie-dyed shoes, faces off against the official squad and slays the routine right along with them.

Her performance is nothing short of inspiring.

“Girl didn’t make the cheer team but she don’t care,” Sydnee captioned the post. “I aspire to have an ounce of her confidence.”

(Don’t we all).

In a subscript, she explained:

“The team did not have a lot of spots and even neurotypical girls (who were much better than Emmie) didn’t make it! Emmie’s school is super, super supportive, but there are hard decisions that have to be made sometimes.”

She went on to add that “Emmie is still happy cheering with them at home games and my mom is secretly happy that she doesn’t have to drive my sister to tons of cheer stuff…”

(And all the sports parents out there are nodding their heads in solidarity.)

Sydnee also shared that despite Emmie not making the squad, she isn’t just sitting at home. She takes gymnastics and dance, both of which she loves.

“I’m sure in the future Emmie will make cheer somewhere, but today she’s perfectly happy as she is 🙂 Thank you everyone for caring about her!” she added.

A Lesson in Self-Esteem and Confidence

In an interview with People, Emmie’s mother, Lisa Tallent, shared that initially, Emmie didn’t understand that she didn’t make the team. She was, after all, a seasoned cheerleader, having been on the squad in grades four and five.

It wasn’t until about a week later that the realization finally sank in. There were some tears but not enough to dampen the sixth grader’s school spirit.

Thanks to her previous experience, Emmie can pick up routines and moves really quickly. A talent she proved in her now-viral video. And she has no plans of stopping. She’ll continue to spread her joy, albeit from the sidelines. For now.

As for her older sister Sydnee, she plans to keep on sharing snippets of Emmie’s life in the hopes of spreading awareness about living with Down syndrome.

“I’ve always wanted to share Emmie’s humor and positivity with others. There are a lot of people who have no exposure or experience with people with special needs and it can make them close-minded,” she said.

“I wanted to give a little piece of Emmie out to the world so those people can see the joy that comes with someone with special needs.”

She also hopes that Down syndrome aside, we can all learn a valuable lesson in self-esteem and finding joy in the face of adversity from a 13-year-old girl who refused to let rejection define her.

And if there is anything to be taken away from this, it’s this: If you ever find yourself in a situation where you have to choose to sit it out or dance? Choose dance.