Jean Nail is the spirit coordinator for the University of Arkansas and has been for 30 years. She has seen thousands of video applications from cheerleading hopefuls. Her standards are high, and she gives no special treatment to anyone. So, when Texarkana native Patience Beard sent in her DVD application, it was viewed with a shrewd eye. Beard had to show exceptional talent in order to make the squad and cheer for the Razorbacks. And, when Nail watched Beard’s DVD application, she “knew thousands of people would go ‘wow’ when they took one look at the girl,” reports Yahoo! Sports, “and not in the way most red-blooded males say ‘wow’ when they look at a cheerleader.”
Patience Beard, while a talented cheerleader, has only one leg.
When Beard was nine months old, her parents elected to have her left leg amputated. Beard was diagnosed with Proximial Femoral Focal Deficiency (PFFD), a disease that affects bone growth and would cause Beard’s left leg to be shorter than her right. Over the course of her life, this would ultimately created a variety of structural problems. So Beard’s parents elected to have her left foot and ankle amputated, and to give her a prosthetic.
While Nail was sympathetic to Beard’s disability, Yahoo! Sports reports that the developing freshman squad “would have to inspire more than concern to become one of the 12 freshmen to cheer for the Razorbacks.” In other words, Beard would have to be just as good as everyone else. There would be no “special consideration.”
And so, college cheerleading has become just another obstacle that Beard has overcome. Just as she told her Dad to take the training wheels off her specially-designed bike when she was 3, just like she started gymnastics classes at 4 and joined cheerleading in seventh grade, she would do this too. Now, as a college cheerleader for the Razorbacks, when the squad runs laps around the football field for warm-ups each day, Nail reports, “Patience has never come in last. Not once.”
Beard’s challenges are mostly unseen, which is part of what makes her such an inspirational role model. While she is able to complete ever stunt and tumbling pass, she does so in some amount of pain, since no prosthetic is completely comfortable all of the time. But, according to her coach, “you’ll never hear Patience mutter a word about that.” There are “no excuses from her.”
At a recent game, a 4-year-old boy with a prosthetic right leg noticed the zebra-striped pattern on Beard’s own prosthetic leg and wanted to meet her. Patience says it was one of the proudest moments of her life.
“She’s the kind of person we want,” Nail tells Lost Letterman. “She’s a good role model. And she’s absolutely qualified.”
With such an inspirational story, Lost Letterman quips, perhaps there is “a measure of consolation amidst the football team’s less-than-stellar start to the 2012 season.”