Thursday, March 29, 2012

A to Z -- 2 Days and Counting!

The A to Z Blogging Challenge starts in 2 days!  I am excited, but I have to say I am missing topics for a few letters. 

I need "O", "X", and "Z".

If you have any cheer or coaching related questions that I can fit into O, X or Z that would be awesome!


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Bitter Sweet Ending

As I sit here here and write I am at a bit of a loss.  Last night was the end of year/season banquet for my cheerleaders.  It is always a great way to get some closure at the end of the cheer year.  One main difference between cheerleading and other traditional sports is that our ‘season’ lasts nine months. 

We start in June with tryouts.  The kids get about 3 weeks to a month ‘off’ of cheerleading.  During this time, we offer conditioning practices to help them stay in shape.  It keeps them off the couch, a little.  In mid July we start with basic practices.  We use this time to get all team members to the same skill level and prepare for camp.  We are also in the midst of our fundraising efforts.  In early August, we attend a group camp.  This is where we go to learn routines and new material for the upcoming season.  We learn at camp how to work together as a team and where our biggest strengths and weaknesses are.  After camp, we work on our back-to-school routines and prepare for the first football, volleyball and soccer games of the season.  September and October lend to more practices, games, pep assemblies, charity work, fundraisers, etc.  November is the close of the fall season.  Depending on how well the football team does in the playoff race determines our break between seasons.  At my school, we have a fall banquet and tryouts for the winter season.  In December, we start great guns with new team members and basketball games.  We try to take off time during the winter holiday break.  In January we start again with games three nights a week, practices three nights a week, study halls, bonding, competition practices, more fundraising, charity events, working at wrestling tournaments, etc… the list goes on and on.  The season usually ends dramatically in February with the boys basketball team attending the state basketball tournament and the cheerleaders attending their competition for the year. 

Unfortunately the saturday after the season ends the kids start spring sports the following Monday.  Over half of my team goes on to play Baseball, Softball, Track or Swim.  Yes, baseball.  I have had a coed cheer team for about 5 years.  Because of length of the season and playoffs, the kids and coaches are left in limbo until the banquet.

Our banquet is not typically fancy.  Usually the coaches make a banquet dinner of Spaghetti, Garlic Bread, Salad and Drinks.  The kids bring potluck style desserts.  During dinner, we watch a photo slide show of pictures from the season.  We then take time to recognize and thank the team members, their parents, our coaches, and administration.   The Junior Varsity coach takes some time to recognize the JV team with their certificates and the numbers that they sew onto the letterman’s jackets they will eventually earn.  The Varsity coach then recognizes each varsity member with short stories about each person and awards them with their Varsity Letter and Megaphone pin.  The captains are recognized and given special captains pins.  Then we recognize the seniors.  Each senior girl and guy receives a personal letter from the coach and team telling him or her why they will be missed.  The girls get a gold megaphone necklace and the guys receive a personalized dog tag.  These are only given to seniors and have become quite coveted.  If there are any seniors that cheered for all four years of high school, they receive special recognition in the form of a photo slide show of pictures of them from all four years.

This is where I am at a loss.  Each year as the season comes to an end I am ready to be DONE!  I love my teams, but nine months is a long time to deal with these guys.  As soon as the season ends and I am working on the banquet I start to reflect over the season and I start to miss them.  As a coach we invest just as much time in our athletes as we do our own family.  They become part of our lives.  When it is over there is a small hole where that time was spent.  In years past, I always coached Track and didn’t have much time to dwell on it.  However, this year I am taking a year off and it is hitting me hard.  I had eight seniors this year.  Two 4-years, two 3-years, two 2-years and two that only cheered one year.  All of them touched my life so much.  My 4 year seniors (without their knowledge) helped me through a rough divorce, a new marriage, and a new baby.  They were there to see me win coach of the year and were on the team the year we won the state cheer championship.  They saw numerous assistant coaches and lived through a tough loss at competition last year.  It was a hard night.  Lots of tears and hugs.  They will be greatly missed. 

My husband has made me promise to take two weeks off cheer, for my sanity and really for his.  He is not coaching track this year either.  The opportunity came up for him to coach the golf team and he jumped on it.  I am doing my best to plan when I will take these two weeks, but how do you give something up that consumes SO much of your time?  I still work on cheer, but I am not trying to plan the entire year in one fell swoop.  A little at a time, and I try hard not to talk about it too much so that he sees that, while I’m not giving it up, I am taking it slow and not letting it stress me out. 

The point of all of this was to share a small glimpse into the heart of a cheer coach.  We love our kids.  That is the real reason we coach.  It is not for the money and certainly not for the glory!  We simply care, sometimes too much.

Thank you to my seniors.  To my juniors, take the team and run with it.  Let your leadership show.  To the underclassmen, learn from the seniors and follow the juniors.  It will be yours one day!


Friday, March 23, 2012

Why We Coach

Coaching cheerleading is one of those jobs that can be the most rewarding and fulfilling experience and the most frustrating and stressful at the same time.  Dealing with other people’s kids is always challenging.  When you introduce the catalyst of whether or not cheerleading is a sport things get even harder. 

I don’t want to get into the discussion of cheer as a sport just yet, but lets just say for our purposes now that cheerleading has become an extremely athletic activity and as a whole coaches and cheerleaders are working towards cheerleading no longer being snotty girls jumping up and down on the sidelines.

If you are currently not a cheer coach, you are probably asking yourself what is the big deal.  The job is to corral a group of 6-10 or even 20 plus girls together and have them dance or cheer in sync to annoying music…I’m sorry to say those thoughts are slightly miss-guided.

Imagine a football coach that in the preseason must sit down, with or without a staff, and review his playbook, develop new plays. He (or she) reviews tape of opponents, tapes of his own players, and plan his practice and conditioning schedule. Coaches set up their game schedule including organizing transportation.  They deal with ordering uniforms and equipment, grade checks and discipline.  Once the season starts they have to coach to win and how to lose.  He has to keep his athletes organized and focused through grueling practices.  Prepare for the next opponent and be ready to adjust on the fly…  At the end of the season, the coach then has to plan his awards banquet and review the season he just had.  Always making note of what worked and what didn’t so that he can adjust for the next season. 

Now lets review the season list for the cheer coach.
She (or He) must review all cheers, chants, dances, stunts and tumbling to see what was effective in keeping the crowds attention.  She will review tapes and spend HOURS on Youtube watching other teams and how they perform to see what may work and what wont.  She will develop a summer practice and conditioning schedule and plan to attend or host a camp to learn new material.  Most cheer teams are not funded by the school or district, so coaches host a myriad of fundraisers throughout the summer to pay for the uniforms and items that cheerleaders need.  Coaches order the spirit packs for cheerleaders, which include: Uniforms, Briefs, Sleeves, Shoes, Bows, Warm-ups, Bags, Pompons, and practice shirts and shorts.  They must develop a grade check system and rules for participation. They must prepare to cheer and perform at all football games, home and away. In the case of my school; they perform and volleyball and soccer as well.  If the team is away, they must secure transportation.  Each game or performance has a different halftime routine and must have a backup plan for inclement weather.  The cheerleaders are considered ambassadors for the school.  This means that the coach has to organize appearances for various events.  Pep Rallies, Assemblies, Orientation, Parent Nights, and any other event that the administration requests.  Many cheer teams are also very involved with community service and charity work.  They organize book drives, can food drives, cancer walks, adopting families for holidays, etc.  If you add in competitions this list doubles…

I do not want this to turn into a one against the other; my point was to show that cheerleading coaches are just as involved in developing their programs as any other coach does.  When a coach puts this much time and effort into something the reward is simply priceless.  Watching your athletes take the field and perform their absolute best whether it be catching a ball or a body or working in sync with their teammates it is an amazing feeling.  When you can see the faces of your athletes and their parents when they are proud of what they have done makes all the time and effort with it. 

There will always be struggles in your program.  These are inevitable.  Communication is key to keeping most everything running smoothly.  You have to stay in contact with your parents, with your administration and your athletes.  Make sure everyone understands the rules and expectations, where and when to be at practices, games and events.  Have a set of rules and expectations that the parents and athletes must sign.  This will help in any conflicts.  Cover yourself by keeping a journal of practices, absences and tardiness, injuries and any discipline. 

As a coach, you have to make it fun.  It needs to be fun for you and for your athletes.  Cheerleading has one of the largest turn-over rates for coaching.  Coaches get burnt-out dealing with the issues, parents and expectations put on them from their administration.   After 15 years of coaching all ages, I have to say that there have been many times I just wanted to walk away.  Amazingly, when things get that frustrating something always brings me back!  It can be anything from winning a championship, hitting a tough stunt, unexpected compliments from outsiders, or a loving note from an athlete.   We touch the lives of our athletes more than we realize.  We help develop how these athletes deal with pressure situations.  We show them how to win and lose gracefully.  They learn how to take pride in their efforts and what the rewards are for giving your all for the good of a team.  Sometimes our athletes don’t buy into the fact that they learn all these things in the classroom because they see school as a job.  They get it in sports, because it is something they want to do.

Everyone coaches for different reasons.  No matter the reason, we must remember to always think about their future and what we are teaching our athletes.  Coaches will always remember that one coach that touched their lives; good or bad.  We work on our coaching philosophy and the direction of our programs, but in the end, we are united in the love of our sport and sharing that love and enthusiasm with our athletes.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A to Z Blogging in April

I think that I may try this and make each blog fit into the A to Z format!  What a fun idea!


Let me introduce myself.
I am Coach Erica, or Coach Walsh III. 
Yes the third. 
I currently coaching cheerleading at a high school in Nevada.  When I started, there were two Coach Walsh's on staff.  Both were or had been coaches.  About 5 years in I married Mr. Walsh I, creating the moniker the third... 

About Me: 
I have been either cheerleading or coaching cheerleading (and track) since 1992.  I ran track in middle school and two years of high school and I cheered in high school for three years.  I began junior-coaching cheer my Junior year.  I have been coaching since then. 15 Years.  I have coached everything from YMCA Rec, Pop Warner, Middle School, High School and All-Stars.  I have not been a College coach, but I have mentored many athletes onto College teams as well as judged high school and college tryouts. 

My favorite level to coach is High School.  The students are, for most of them, at the most athletic point of their lives.  They are excited to learn and willing to try new things.  They are pressured by their peers to look good, which makes expecting them to look good easier.

I am currently a member of our state coaches association as a coach and a board member.  My job is to help mentor new coaches and make sure that we are all on the correct page as far as rules and sportsmanship.  In 2008 I was awarded the Coach of the Year award.  It was an amazing accomplishment to finally have been recognised for all the hard work and dedication that I put into this sport. 

It has been suggested to me on numerous occasions that I write a book.  Put all the knowledge that I pass on to my colleagues into the written word.   While, yes, writing a book is on my bucket list, the details are a little sketchy.  I am not sure how to organize my thoughts and knowledge into a book that coaches would like to read.  My thought was to start a blog and see if it can help me hone those ideas into logic.

My goal will be to write in the blog at least twice a week.  I am hoping to write more, but lets start with baby steps.  I hope that you decide to follow along and help me organize those thoughts.  If you are currently a Coach of Cheer or any other sport, a parent of a cheerleader or athlete, or just a curious citizen, please FEEL FREE to comment and make suggestions.  I love answering questions about cheerleading.