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.


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