Saturday, February 5, 2022

My Coaching Philosophy - Spirit Leaders

First and foremost, I want to say that education is key to successful athletes and contributing members of society. I remind my athletes and the coaches that I mentor that we do not attend high school to play sports, we attend high school to gain an education and learn about the world we live in. Those students who are able to juggle academics and athletics will be the best leaders in their community.

I feel strongly that students should take the opportunity to participate in athletics and clubs available to them while they have the chance. We only attend high school for 4 years and the lessons learned, friends made, and experiences we have during that time challenge us and define us as individuals for the rest of our lives. High School athletics put our kids in leadership roles, especially those in the Spirit Positions, i.e. cheer, dance, and mascot.

Cheerleaders and Dancers have always been expected to lead the crowd and keep them screaming and yelling for their team. As time has evolved the expectations of these students have also evolved. Presently they are expected to be ambassadors for their school. They set the example for the student body in athleticism, academics, service, and support. They must uphold themselves in a manner that other members of the student body are not expected to.

I feel that our Spirit Programs, both Cheer, and Dance, should be held to the highest of standards. Coaches should be knowledgeable in their activity and safety should be at the forefront of their minds. Whether a school hosts a program that is sideline based and spends its time supporting other sports or a school carries a highly athletic and competitive squad, their focus should be on their leadership role and safety. Each school has a unique opportunity to develop a program that best fits the needs of their school and community.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Back in the Saddle

This may come as a surprise to some of you and for those who really know me… I would hope no shock at all…

I have agreed to be an assistant coach for the Astoria High School Cheerleaders. 💜💛
I know, I know, but here’s the thing. You know I love it and you know I will offer up help and mentoring to anyone willing to listen. Our schools cheer program is rebuilding this year with a fantastic new coach who loves listening to an old lady jabber on about the sport she’s dedicated so much of her life too… It feels great to be able to be in the gym again and offer up my knowledge to a whole new group of students and friends willing to listen. I missed it friends, too much to admit.
Side note… it’s harder to perform skills and drills after 40 😅👵🏼
Oh! For those of you putting money on it… 973 days, or 2 1/2 years is how long it took. 😉🎉

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Final Fall Performance

As our season comes to a close and we reflect on the past 5 months we are reminded of how great our kids are. It has been an incredible rebuilding season for Sparks Cheer! They have worked hard to continue the traditions that the generations before them started and start some fantastic new traditions of their own! 
Tonight the JV and Varsity cheerleaders came together for a cheer showcase and earned awards for “Commanders in Crowd Leading” and “Supreme Sportsmanship”. Both awards are a great reflection of how hard working and supportive these kids are of each other. The coaches could not be any more proud of these girls!

Saturday, September 22, 2018

More than a Coach

After 23 years of coaching, I can really start to appreciate coaching for what it truly is. It has little to do with the skills and sports being taught, but so much more about showing kids that it’s ok to be teenagers and how to grow past that and be great adults. I’m proud that I’ve been privileged enough to have been a part of high school, college and military graduations, weddings, births, and some awesome moments in my kid's lives.
Tonight was no different. I have known Mike and Brandi for 15 years and watched their kids grow up. I’ve been privileged enough to coach a few of them and then have Jess come back and be an assistant coach with me. I’m proud of the wonderful young women she’s become and grateful for the help over the last three years. I’m so very glad I was able to be here tonight for her and Jacob’s wedding. It’s a good feeling to be at a wedding and look around and know that the bride and groom are surrounded by loved ones.
Jess and Jacob, you have married your best friend. Marriage is tough at times and fun at times, but remember that everything is easier when you share it with your best friend. When things are good it’s good and when one of you stumbles, pick them up and dust them off and love them anyway. Lean on each other, always hold hands, and share your love every day. Don’t linger on grudges and never take life too seriously. It’s not a race, the goal is to make to the end together with memories and a life of love. Thank you for including me in your special day. I love you guys! 

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Friday Nights and Stadium Lights

‪In the fall, each long week culminates with Friday Night Lights. 
Each Friday night at some point I experience a moment of total calm. Everything gets quiet in my mind and my heart is at peace. Tonight it was during the national anthem. Standing on the sidelines between the cheerleaders and the band. Seeing the football boys stand proudly and ROTC on the field with the Stars and Stripes. ‬
I know in those moments I am home. I’m where I’m supposed to be and doing what I’m supposed to do. It’s what I never knew I wanted to be when I grew up. Sometimes the weeks are hard, the job is hard and the hours are long. But it’s always worth it. 
To the kids who’ve shared their lives with me and the kids who challenge me to be the best I can for them. 
Thank you. 
Thank you for all of it.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The best day of the year!

There is a chill in the air.
The smell of fresh cut grass.
There is an electricity with this day.
Young men all over the country wake up and take part in a tradition that spans a hundred years. They will don a jersey in their school colors, with a name on the front that is not theirs, but yet they wear it with pride.
It’s time my friends to kick-off football in America.
Today the gridiron gang will walk the halls with their shoulders a little higher and a stride in their step, for tonight they become warriors.
Tonight, they head into battle with their brothers. They have worked to learn plays, understand their opponents and begin to truly understand themselves. In 48 ticks of the scoreboard, they will learn what it really means to be a teammate, a brother and a school hero.
As they take the field emotions will run high, both with them and in the stands. This will be a night of firsts. For some will take the field for the first time ever and for others this will be their last-first game. New players, new coaches, new uniforms and a fresh start.
But together they stand. They stand for each other. They stand for their coaches and parents and school spirit. And each and every one of them will make us fall in love with this day again.
They will make us proud. Proud to be their parent, proud to be family, friends or teammates, and proud to be their coach.
Tonight is YOUR night gentlemen. Take a moment to look around.
Listen to the sounds, remember the lights and the feel of the grass in your cleats. The stadium lights and the sounds of the fans cheering for YOU.
This night is yours.
You decide how it ends and all of us will be right there with you.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Getting Your Life Back!

Getting your life back after the season
The cheer season has come to an end.
You have collected uniforms, handed out pictures and recognized everyone’s hard work at the banquet.
Now what?

Each coach plan’s his or her season differently.  I’m going to talk about what I do for my program and what needs to happen for me to decompress and recharge for next year. If it works for you, awesome! If not, hopefully, there are some things that you can use or modify for your program.

After the banquet, I meet up with the Bookkeeper and make sure that all invoices have been paid and our account is balanced. During the year, I keep an extremely tight hold on our finances in a 6-part file folder.  There is a section for my account balance sheet, the school's balance sheet, Fundraisers and Income, purchases, spirit pack info (the kid's order forms and master checklist), and the individual account balances.  I gather up all lose accounting paperwork and put it in its place so that I can file this away for reference.

My Coaches Bag
I take a quick look through my coach’s bag for any items that need to be returned. (Click Here to see/purchase mine.)  
This can include items cheerleaders have lost, a medical kit that goes back to the trainer, or any random snacks or water bottles left over from games.  Once I have done a quick check, I put gather all cheer related items that have scattered to my desk, table, car, etc. and put them back in my coach’s bag. I take the bag and set it out of sight for TWO WEEKS!  This step is very important to my mental recharge and albeit hard is necessary. This gives me time to let the dust settle and any feelings about the year to fall into their true meaning.  
Here’s what I mean by that:

Each year is different. Some years are wonderful and some years, not so much.  At the end of the season, you can be ready to turn in your keys and call it quits, or you can be so excited that you forget that cheer is actually over.  Sometimes you are so emotional about the class that is graduating you can forget about those upcoming kids that want to be equally successful.  The other thing I need to let settle is my family life.  My husband and I both coach year around so our lives are dictated by our coaching schedule.  He coaches Girls Golf in the fall, Wrestling in the Winter and Boys Golf in the Spring.  I coach two separate seasons of Cheer, Fall and Winter, and then if his Golf team is big enough, I am his assistant Golf Coach.  This two weeks off allows us to switch sports, reconnect our lives with our six-year-old, and plan the next season and then summer. During my two weeks “Vacation” I don’t check my Coaching Email, check my box at the school, or take any cheer-related phone calls. My coaching email gets a vacation signature and If I get a phone call I send an email or text (if appropriate) letting them know when I will return. During my vacation, if I have any thoughts or notes that pop into my head I write myself a quick note to be addressed later.  This helps keep me organized and not forget some of those great ideas.

Ok, it’s been two weeks! Remember that bag you stuffed in a closet? Yeah, now it’s time to take it out and clean it up.
Start by removing everything from it. All pockets, pens, notebooks, rule books, scraps of paper… everything!
Sort it all into piles. 

Throw out the trash and scraps of paper that you don’t need (now’s not the time to be a hoarder.)
You’ll probably have a pile of pens, pencils, markers, etc.  Check to see if they still work and place them in a pocket. 

Next, you need to dissect your clipboard and binders. 
Make a pile that includes flyers, event requests, charity information, tournament brackets or any information that was specific to this season.  Put these in a file folder along with the attendance sheet, team calendar, workouts and any notes regarding that season that I want to remember to refer to.

There should be a pile of chant lists and game plans and material notes – save these to file into a master folder.  I refer to this year after year. 

Sort all cheerleader specific paperwork.  All Emergency / School paperwork should be filed and saved until the cheerleader is 20 years old.  This includes and doctor’s notes and injury or discipline reports.  The scary thing about coaching is that we are responsible for these kids and anything that happened to them while on our watch until they are 20 years old.  18 plus two years is the statute of limitations on all injuries and issues that can come up.
As scary as it sounds, it can come up.  I had a girl come to me 7 years after I coached her on a youth team that had back issues and wanted to discuss my treatment.  Because I had a copy of her doctors note and release back to cheer, I was not at fault.

Once everything is sorted out start dissecting your year to see what worked and what didn’t.
Here’s my list with notes on what to look for:

Is the program where you want it?
Is there a good balance between competition and school support?
Was the administration happy with the program, and does it fit in their vision?
Where do you want the program to go? More athletic, more school spirit, more community involvement?

Spirit Pack, contents and costs.
Did we need/use everything that we purchased?
What can we do without to save money?
What should we add to make life easier?
Plan around what you need, what the kids want and what is cost-effective for your program. Know your families.

What Fundraisers we successful?
Which were not?
Are there other fundraisers that we didn’t use or haven’t done in a while that can come back?
Again, understand what the needs of the program are and know your families.  This is different each year.

Team Rules
What were our biggest issues this year/season?
Is there a part of the team constitution that covers this already?
Does it need written in or re-written for clarity?
Are there rules or items that are no longer valid or school rules that need to be adjusted?

Were tryouts effective in choosing the best kids for the team?
Were they too strict and there were kids that missed out unnecessarily?
Were they to laid-back and there were kids that were chosen that were not a good fit for the program.
Based on where you would like your program to be going, what changes do you need to make to the tryout process?

Were practices organized and effective?
Were the practices adequate to prepare for games and events? 
Did you have to add or remove practices during the season?
Was the team meeting its goals and progressing?

Planning the whole year is key!
How did the schedule (the part you can control) work? (practices, events, fundraisers, community service, etc.)

When planning the next year, sit down with a blank calendar, last year’s calendar, the new school calendar, and your personal calendar.  Start filling in dates and events that you know.  If you have a family vacation planned or school functions that always happen at a certain time, put those in first.  Add in school vacations, days, off, holidays, finals and graduation. If there is an event or fundraiser that coincides with a community event, add it.

Look at the best times for open gyms and tryouts, and pencil those in.

If you practice in the summer, look at your schedule and put those down.  Please remember that the kids need a break. They need to recharge and get excited too.  I have found that If I keep them away for at least a month they will be excited to return and typically work on skills on their own. Decide on a camp date and practices to prepare for camp and the welcome back festivities.

Fundraisers, Payments, and Team Meetings. 
Schedule these and get them on the calendar ASAP.  Give the parents time to plan their summer too.  If you have a plan, they will trust in the process.  Don’t wing it.  It causes stress for you and the kids can feel it and parents will be frustrated.  Let them know ahead of time what the fundraisers are, when they will run and when money is due.  Try to work it out so that fundraisers end at the same time a spirit pack payment is due. They should understand that you provide the fundraisers as a courtesy and if they choose not to participate then the money is still due. 
At your team meetings, update cheerleaders and parents on the upcoming events and any changes.  Thank them for the previous participation and events and be their cheerleader for the next ones.  If you are excited, they will be excited.  Learn how to sell it. 

You should have an idea of when games are, pencil those in.  You don’t have to put the specifics in, but you can write JV Game – 4:30. Time/Location TBA. If you plan on cheering at Soccer or Volleyball once a week, then put that in.  We cheer for other sports on Tuesdays (home only). If soccer has a game, we go to that. If its Volleyball, we go to that.  If there are multiple sports playing we divide and conquer.  Sometimes there is no game so we spend that time making signs or goodie bags for the sports we don’t physically attend (Golf, Cross-Country, and Tennis).  There have even been times when we were all caught up with our own school sports that we write out encouragement cards for other school’s cheerleaders in the area.

Community Events, School Functions, and Assemblies
These are events that tend to get scheduled at the last minute.  As soon as I know these I add them and send out an updated calendar.  The communication of the changes is KEY!

Keep yourself organized and always refer to your “Year of Cheer” schedule to stay focused.  Write notes and reminders to yourself to order awards and contact certain vendors.  Google calendar can be a lifesaver!

Once you have the paperwork updated, tryout process planned, and your calendar started the rest falls into place. 
Now that your season is outlined, you can take a break (If the schedule allows), or you can get started putting the season plan into motion!

I will now begin my time off.  My bag is in the closet, them vacation email response set up, and my cheer box at the school is empty! 
See you mid-March!