Monday, April 30, 2012

Zen by Completion

This post is really more about my coaching journey. I want to reflect on what it has meant to me to go through the A to Z Challenge.  Over the past 30 days, I have learned a lot about my coaching and myself.  I have learned what is important to me and how I want to treat my athletes.  I have been coaching a long time and have never been able to put into words my coaching philosophy. 

Coaching to me is more than just a job.  It is my passion and my life’s work.  I have spent more time in my life coaching other people’s children that anything else.  There have been some rough years and some rough times, but in the end, it is always worth it.  When we focus on touching the lives of our students and making memories that can last for a lifetime, we have done our job. 

At the end of the day, it is not about how many trophies you brought home or how many games are won.  It is about the friendships you have made and the smiles on the cheerleader’s faces.  In the last month I have listened to former students talk about what it meant to cheer for me and be on my team.  I have seen pictures of cheerleader’s rooms with papers and what I thought were silly awards hanging on the walls.  I gained some friends and lost some friends.  I watched two incredible former cheerleaders tryout for college teams and make it.  I helped two girls from my team get onto the high school team where they are moving.  I helped reassure a fellow coach that she is not alone in her endeavors as a coach and always has help if she needs it.  I continued to grow my camp staff and reach out to coaches and friends to help them make their programs better.

These things cannot be taken away from me.  They have helped me grow as a person and a coach and for that I am grateful!  If you have been following my posts over the last month, I thank you too.  I have received good and bad feedback from what I was doing. Everything was helpful.  Thank you to the founders of the A to Z blogging challenge!  This journey has been wonderful!  It has reinforced my love of writing and given me the opportunity to share my knowledge to those who want it.

Thank you,

Year End Banquet

As your cheer season starts to come to an end it’s a good idea to start thinking of an end of the year party.  It can be as fancy or as casual as you want.  If your team has had a theme for the year, it’s probably good to stick with that. 

There are as many ways to celebrate the season as there are athletes on your team.  Here are some of the things we do and a few ideas that you can use to make the banquet special for your team.

If you have a decent budget, you can look into renting a room or taking the team out to a restaurant.  We typically use the school cafeteria and decorate it up.  It has everything we need to make a wonderful banquet.  It has a kitchen facility, a place for multi-media, tables, restrooms, etc.  With lots of balloons, table clothes and centerpieces, it looks great.

If you choose to have food at your banquet, there are a few options.  You could have a potluck style and have the team bring the food.  Just make sure that you plan it out a little so that you don’t have 20 desserts and 2 main dishes.  You could have someone come in and cater if you have the money. Alternatively, for not much money and a little time, you could make the dinner yourself.  This last option is what we do.  I typically purchase the items and assemble them the day of the banquet.  Spaghetti or Chicken Alfredo is easy and inexpensive.  Add a large salad and garlic bread and you are set.  I typically feed 100 people for around $150-200.00.

Each school is different in the awards they give out.  At my school, the JV cheerleaders receive a certificate of participation and twill numerals that they can sew on a letterman’s jacket.  The Varsity team receives a varsity certificate and a megaphone pin to signify the first varsity letter and if they have not received their numerals, they receive those as well.  If they have already received their megaphone pin, they get a gold bar each time they letter.

Captains receive a captain pin for each season they are captain.

Seniors receive a personalized letter thanking them for their dedication to the team.  The senior girls get a gold megaphone necklace and the guys receive a sublimated dog tag.

Four-Year seniors are recognized with a speech by the coaches and a memories video from the 4 years they spent on the team.

We also hand out any awards for scholastics and all Americans.

Through the season, we collect pictures and videos and put them together for a great memories video.  We watch this during the dinner part of the night.

The most important part of the night is recognizing and thanking the athletes, parents, administration and supporters for their hard work and dedication to the team.  Take some time on each student to make him or her feel special.


Saturday, April 28, 2012


This is going to seem a little out of the way, but stay with me…

When I hear the word Xerox, I think of copy machines or copies.  When I apply the word copy to the cheerleading world, I think of the original “Bring it On” movie.  For those of you who have not seen it, the quick and dirty version of the story is this:  The new captain of the Toro’s cheer team is presented with information that the previous captain was stealing cheer routines from another school, the Clovers.  The previous Toro’s captain would video tape the routines and teach them to her team, they would then go on to win national championships with those “stolen” routines.  In the movie, the new captain of the clovers decides that she is going to make sure that her team makes it to nationals.  Chaos ensues, the Toro’s have to come up with their own routine, and “SPOILER ALERT” the Clovers win the national championship.  Because of the hard work that the Toro’s put in to make sure they had an original team they are happy with their performance… 

This brings me to the question, is it all right to copy, or imitate routines that you see online or from other schools?

My short answer is Yes it is ok, but with limitations.

If you go so far as to perform the routine EXACTLY like the original, down to the music, NOT OK.  This is the same as copying your neighbor’s answers on a test. 

If you watch a routine and see a stunt, dance move, transition, or cheer and adapt it to fit what you are doing, this would be fine.  There is very little in the cheer world that has not been done.  If we look at our chant list there are many chants and cheers that have been passed down from generation to generation.  They had to start somewhere.  Especially when you hear parents say, “we did that one when I was in school.”  Chances are the parents that are saying this didn’t come from the same area.  In football, how many times have you seen, or heard, of plays and offences set up from multiple schools?  Right now, the Pistol Offense is big in the college world from Coach Ault at Nevada.  He developed an offense that is now being used by Oregon, UCLA, Alabama, and even some NFL teams are picking it up, just to mention a few.  Is Coach Ault upset that so many teams are using it?  Probably not, they don’t have his team, his coaches, or knowledge of the plays.  Teams watch the film and adapt it to what they need.

The same goes for the cheer world.  In fact, if you attend a cheer camp in the summer that is run by any of the major companies you are learning the same material that is being taught to 100,000 cheerleaders across the nation.  Chances are you are taking the dances and cheers and adapting them to what works for your team.  If you aren’t its ok too, that was the point of those routines.  If you go online and snag a great dance off Youtube, there really isn’t anyway to tell if it was “original” or learned at camp.  Many of the same issues come up with stunting.  When someone comes up with a creative load or transition and performs it at nationals many of the teams go home and work on duplicating that stunt.  Often times the cheer companies also duplicate those stunts to teach to the masses.  It’s just the reality of sports.  Again, for you football fans, how many teams in history have run the “statue of liberty” play?

As a coach, I am asked why I post videos of my team performing at games and assemblies.  The concern is that other teams will take the ideas and perform them in competitions against us.  My response is always this.  “Feel free to copy our choreography.  If you choose to perform it against us, you better know it better than we do.”  My routines have the advantage of my teaching and my vision.  If someone wants to watch it online and try to teach it, they may not know the tricks and techniques that I used.  Because of that, it wont get taught exactly the same, thus adapting it for what they need. 

It has been said that imitation is a form of flattery.
Absolutely!  If you see something you like, make it work for you.  Don’t be upset when you see your material being performed by someone else.  It means it was good enough that they took the time to repeat something great!


Working With Parents

Parents want what is best for their kids.  It is that simple.  They don’t want surprises and they need to know they’re safe.  Some parents didn’t have the opportunities that their kids are getting now.  Some had more opportunities than their kids are getting.  Some parents don’t value extracurricular activities and some know the importance of the WHOLE high school experience.  You will have some of all of these types of parents on your team.  Some want to be involved and some just want to drop off and pick up.  Whatever the case and whatever the attitude, as a coach, we have to figure out how to deal with them all.  They are not all going to be happy all the time, but if they feel informed and somewhat involved, they will be content.

Make sure the parents all know and understand what your philosophy is as a coach and what the expectations of them and their children are.  They need to know that you care about their child and how to contact you if they need to talk about their child.

Some coaches prefer their cheer parents to have little to no involvement with the teams.  No coaching, no helping out directly with the team whatsoever.  This can be good for drama issues.  You don’t have to hear the phrase “She only gets to do that because her mom is the coach!”  You don’t have the worry of coach/parent/athlete distractions.  This also means that unless you have an amazing staff of outside assistant coaches you are all on you own!

If you are not sure if you want parent involvement, start small.  Allow parents to help but in ways that don’t directly involve coaching.  Give tasks and small jobs, not coaching responsibilities.  This will allow them to be involved without the issues of coaching.  Once you start building great parent support, you can add jobs and duties to your willing parents.

Parent Boosters
This can be set up in a way that the parents take on all the fundraising and travel.  They would choose a president, set up a board and have a mission and goals.  Much like that of the school boosters.  This works best in a large team setting.  Teams that spend money on traveling to competitions and work on competitions use boosters often.  It takes much of the pressure off the coach to organize and keep track of the fundraising and travel for competitions.  Smaller teams may not need an entire booster club.

The rest of the jobs can be used in the booster setting or just choose a few for the parents to participate with.  Make sure that all final decisions are cleared by the coach before given to the team. 

Communication Chair
This person would be in charge of contacting all cheerleaders and parents, informing them of schedules, changes, and other need-to-know information.  They can call, text or email the information. Choose someone that can convey information without gossiping.

Transportation Chair
If you are in a district that doesn’t provide transportation or your group is required to find its own way to games and competitions you can have a parent that could be in charge of making the arrangements for travel.  They would be responsible for contacting the parents that will car-pool and discussing the details.  They could also be in charge of renting vans and finding drivers, if that is something your team does. 

Fundraising Chair
This person would be in charge if taking the budget and organizing enough fundraisers to pay for uniforms, travel fees, competition fees, etc.  They would be in charge of researching ideas, setting up fundraisers, locations, distributing information to the teams, and collecting money.  This person should have a good understanding of the team dynamic and what will benefit the team the most.  Choose a trustworthy person with a good grasp of accounting or has a background in accounting.

Party Chair
This person would coordinate all squad-bonding activities for the season.  Ideas would include slumber parties, holiday parties, pre-game meals, tailgate parties, and the end of year banquet.  You could also have them organize any bowling, skating, or team outings.

Snack Parent
This parent would be in charge of providing the team with nutritious snacks during the games and competitions.  They can set up the water station or bring bottled water for the team.

Publicity Chair
This parent would write and distribute press releases about the squad to the local media.  They would call upon the local media to do stories about the cheerleaders.  They would also be in charge of finding community events where the team can perform and or volunteer their time.

Competition Chair
This person gets information about all the competitions, completes the needed paperwork and keeps a copy of the music needed for routine.  They would also communication to parents about the competitions, entry fees and spectator fees.  He or she would distribute lists of the items the cheerleaders need to bring to all competitions.

Scrapbook Chair
They would collect photos from the cheerleaders during the year, memorabilia from each event ad makes a scrapbook for the end-of-the-year party.  They can make color copies for the cheerleaders as a gift or for the parents to purchase.

The parent tapes all events and puts together a video of the last party of the year.

The photographer takes pictures of events, practices, games, fundraisers, etc throughout the year and coordinates with the Scrapbook Chair.

Parent coordination takes some trial and error to find a groove that works for you.  Make sure your are choosing parents that buy into the philosophy and will not infringe on your coaching and what is best for the team.


Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Coaches are joined in the task of teaching, leading and setting examples for our cheerleaders. We may not all be friends, but we should respect what we all do. When you think about that cross-town (or cross-state) rival, remember that while you and your team are working hard at practice, so are they. When you have team drama, so do they. When you are celebrating goals and making memories, so are they. We are unique in our sport that we really cannot judge our successes on a daily or weekly basis by wins and losses. We have the harder task of knowing and understanding that our accomplishments are judged in our hearts. We have a successful game when our stunts hit, the crowd stays in control and we keep our spirit up.

When you visit another team or someone visits you in your gym, why not greet them and show them you appreciate what they do? Talk to the coach; get to know the names of their cheerleaders. These things make a huge difference in the spirit of the games.  Try to prepare your cheerleaders before traveling by sharing stories of previous visits and friendships made while at the destination school. It helps the kids to respect what the other team does and goes through. Let us keep the confrontations on the court, spirit leaders are spirit leaders no matter what colors you wear.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Underestimating Athletes

As a coach I tend to be stern and set high expectations for my athletes.  I push them hard and expect them to give 100%.  My teams will tell you the same thing, but at the end of the season, they look back and are shocked at how much they accomplished.  When I meet with other schools there are mixed emotions from parents and coaches.  The coaches compliment me on my teams skills, attitude, and abilities.  They love how great they look and want to know how to get there.  Parents tend to say that I am mean and I expect too much from the kids.  

My question is this.  How hard do you push?  When are the expectations too high?  I let my teams answer that.  We start working on the first day and push for improvement each day.  When we reach a wall and find something they struggle with, I put it back on them.  They decided if they want to continue working the skill or step back a level.  There can be many reasons for the struggle.  Usually they were not quite ready to advance from the previous skill and simply need to step back and build confidence or technique.  Sometimes they are just having an off day. 

What many coaches do is start small and work too fast.  They try to push through to the bigger skills without building a good foundation.  Then when the team struggles with the advanced skills they are not sure where to go when the team is frustrated and defeated.  They underestimate the work that needs done at all levels.  Once the team starts to struggle, the assumption is that they don’t have the ability to perform the skill.  If they take a few steps back and start again to build up the strength and confidence the team will pick up and move past where they are stuck.

Is it too much to ask your athletes to give 100% at practice?  Is two hours a day too much time to be spent on working towards goal?  The answers here depend on what you want to accomplish in a season.  If your team focus is not to advance its skills, but to focus on school spirit and leadership, they yes it might be too much to ask of your team to put in 10-12 hours a week.  Those goals need to be set from the beginning and the vision needs to be conveyed to the team and parents so that they know what to expect and how much time is involved.

My highest expectations for my team are simply this - I want them to work hard and work everyday.  I want them to keep learning and not accept defeat.  When something gets hard, find out how to make it work.  I will advance my team as far as they are willing to go.  Once they start to see the potential of what they can do, the team tends to take the lead and want to be better.  I am there to teach and offer support.  When they get lazy, I’m there to motivate, when they are excited, I’m there to keep it going, I am what they need me to be because I know that they can be their own motivation if they see something they want.  That what we really are trying to teach.  Self-motivation and work ethic.  When you see something you want, you go after it and put in the work to make it happen. 

For those parents that feel that I am “mean,” don’t underestimate the strength of your little darling… they are not as fragile as you may think. 

To the coaches that have a dream, follow it.  Through discipline and communication, your team will reach the bar that you set.  Make it high and raise it often!  You will soon learn that the kids will hit and exceed your expectations, if you let them.


Monday, April 23, 2012

They told me there was no "I" in Team

I must admit this is not my piece...  I found it online many years ago and thought it was amazing.  I share it with you in the promise that I will also write a piece on Teamwork.

They told me there is no “I” in team
I am an athlete.
I am an individual.
I am strong.
I am weak.
I have desires, hopes, and dreams.
I have goals.
I have fears.
As a team, my opponent will never see my weaknesses.
Only my strength, never my fears, only my goals as they unfold before them.
I am not afraid that my team will see my fears, my hopes, dreams, or desires.
I trust them to an unlimited level.
I am not afraid that my team will see my faults, because with them I can overcome my faults, with them I am fearless, with them I have hopes and dreams.
With my team, I am not weak; I do not have the strength of one athlete, but of many, combined, focused, and dangerous to my un-united opponent.
I become my team and my team becomes me.
I do not judge, and I am not judged.
I have a goal, and the team has a goal.
The team goal is my goal.
All that matters is that the team reaches its goal.
They always told me there is no “I” in “Team”.
They were wrong.
I am the team.
I became the team.
The team became me.
The team becomes an entity unto itself.
The team is strong, creative, compassionate, caring, authoritative, disciplined.
The team absorbs “I”, and then there is “I” in “Team”.
The “I” becomes part of something much more powerful.

They were right there is no “I” in “Team,” but there is “Team” in me.


There is nothing more important in cheerleading as the issue of safety.  With the advent of Google and Youtube, any and everyone can go online and see new tricks and skills to perform.  Unfortunately, they are not always being attempted by teams that have the skills or the knowledge to perform them safely.

As a spirit coach, our responsibility is to become familiar with the rules in our state.  In the state of Nevada, the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS), Spirit Rules, governs cheerleaders.  We also have rules developed by the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association (NIAA) and the Nevada Spirit Coaches Association (NSCA).  A Spirit Director over-sees our programs and enforces these rules.  If a violation occurs, fines and restrictions are assessed.   It was not designed to limit our activity, it was meant for the safety of our athletes.  This being said, I know that each state is different in its requirements.  The state of California, for example, follows the rules developed by the American Association of Cheer Coaches and Administrators (AACCA).  The rules used to be quite different, but in the 2012 rule changes, they have become more streamlined in their requirements.

The coaches are the front line in the safety of the athletes.  We have a few guidelines that we MUST follow to ensure the safety of our athletes and our program.

Constant Supervision

According to a study by Live Science, cheerleading was the cause for 65% of all catastrophic injuries in girls over the past 25 years. It falls on the coach to make sure that the athletes know the rules and are following them.  Protecting them from unnecessary injuries will protect both the coach and the athlete.

Set Parameters

Make sure that the team understands that there is to be NO stunting or tumbling without a qualified coach present.  While cheerleaders may understand the stunt and how to perform it, they may not understand how to teach all parts of it.  The easy way to set guidelines is to establish a qualifying system. An example would be:  Before a squad can perform stunts or skills without spotters they would need to perform it 5 times without error.  Similarly, before they can learn skill 2, they must be cleared to perform skill 1.

Stay Current

Coaches need to be aware of the current trends in cheerleading stunts and tumbling.  Because of the differences in states, what you see being performed online, or at Nationals could be illegal where your team is.  Always check with your Athletic Director about your requirements.  Some states offer rules and stunt clinics to their coaches.  Find out who is in charge of these and get in contact with them.  If there isn’t any info, do the research yourself and know both the AACCA and NFHS rules.  Keep copies of the rules with you at all practices, events and games.

Develop an Emergency Plan

Like a fire drill, an emergency plan is best when learned, practice and never used.  Just in case you do have an emergency, it is best if all members of the team know what to do.  Know who will be in charge of calling 9-1-1 and make sure that everyone knows what the address of your location is and where the emergency forms for the team are located.  It would also be a good idea to know what to do in case it is the coach that is injured.  The last important part of any emergency plan is to practice.  Have someone pretend to be injured and have the team practice what to do.  You may never have to use it, but if you do not have it in place, chaos can ensue.

Administrative Assessment

Your athletic director or athletic administrator should be asking these questions already, but if they are not you can make sure that you are prepared when they do.
  1. The main purpose of our spirit program should be spirit and leadership.  Do we have a mission and purpose for our spirit squad in place and does it focus on leadership through spirit?
  2. Do the squad members project an image consistent with the expiations of our school and athletic department?
  3. Do the squad practices balance spirit and athleticism?  There should be equal if not more focus on developing spirit in the student body than competitions.
  4. Are we allowing the squad adequate time to work on academics? Are we monitoring the academic progress and GPS’s of the spirit team? 
  5. Does our program follow mandatory safety guidelines?  Are the coaches familiar with these guidelines?
Assessing Squad Ability
First, develop the stunt progressions that your team will follow.  Once they understand the progressions you need to assess their ability to perform the skills.  Listed is a checklist for coaches when allowing athletes to perform tasks.
  1. Strength- Is the athlete strong enough to perform the skill safely?
  2. Power- Does the athlete have enough power to perform the skill safely?
  3. Flexibility- Does the athlete have the flexibility to perform the skill safely?
  4. Freshness- Is the athlete tired?  Does the athlete have enough energy to perform the skill safely?
  5. Understand- Does the athlete understand the skill and how to perform the skill?
  6. Environment Conducive- Is the environment and the surroundings safe for performing the skill?  Examples: not raining if outside, high ceilings for extended stunts, performing on mats, etc.
  7. Spotting- Does the athlete know and understand how to protect the participants if a skill fails?
 When reading this list, some coaches will feel overwhelmed at the duties placed upon them.  I promise, the safety part of coaching gets easier.  Once the safety items are in place and you practice them, they become second nature.  Stick to it and make sure your team understands the expectations and punishments if the rules are not followed.  It is better to perform lower level skills perfectly at a game than to have limited skills because team members are sitting out with injuries!


Thursday, April 19, 2012

These questions are brought to you by the letter Q

When I sat down with the alphabet and brainstormed topics for the A to Z challenge Q proved to be more complicated that anticipated.  I decided to put it out to my Facebook friends to ask questions pertaining to coaching cheerleading.   Have decided to answer the following questions  today since these are not skill based or going to be addressed in a later blog.   Thanks SO MUCH to my great friends that submitted questions.

How does a cheerleader cope if they are uncomfortable with the coaching style?
Communication is going to be the basis for my answers on all of the questions.  Talk it out, take the time to listen to each other.  If you are a coach, listen to your athletes.  If you are the athlete, listen to the coaches side of the story.  They may just be on a different page of the master plan than you are.

Coaches come in many shapes and sized.  Big personalities, Yelling, Stomping, Quiet Aggressivenes, My way or no way… these are all traits of coaches that we may not like.  Not every coach has these qualities, but many of the good ones do.   Many times we get students that struggle with our coaching style.  Sometimes personalities just don’t fit.  My suggestion to a cheerleader that is having an issue with the coaches is this. 

Ask yourself why you are uncomfortable.  Is it because you don’t feel you have the skills to perform what is being asked of you?  Do you not like the standards being imposed on the team?  Your way of coping depends on what your are having an issue with.

If you go into a cheer program, or any team sport for that matter.  You are subject to the coach and his style.  Coaches are always going to do what is best for the team as a whole.  If they need you to perform in a position that you are not used to then the expectation is that you will step up and do it.  Coaches are not going to place an athlete into a position that they cannot fill. 

If you feel like the coach is just not working well with you then you need to sit down and talk to the coach.  A good coach will take the time to listen to your concerns.  They want you to succed and do the best you can for you and for the team.  You were chosen because you fit into a bigger picture.  Talking to the coach may allow you to see what that bigger picture is. 

How do you cope when athletes refuse to follow safety guidelines and put themselves and their teammates in danger?
Safety should always be the first priority.   Start your season with a discussion about safety and how to keep eachother safe.  Review the rules, demonstrate why those rules are in place and have an emergency plan.  The more the team understands the risk, the safer then generally are.

This being said, there are always those individuals that want to diregard the rules.  As a coach yo need to have a discipline policy in place to deal with those people.  Have a strict “No flyer on the floor” rule.  Make sure that they understand that if they choose to break a rule they have to sit out.  It doesn’t matter the rule, they are all in place for a reason.

If a cheerleader shows up with glitter on their face or body they have the option of washing it off or sitting out.   Glitter seems like a small thing, but if you throw a person in the air and glitter flakes of and gets in your eyes you may not be able to catch your flyer.  If  a cheerleader has glitter on and it flakes off onto the gym floor it can become slippeey.  You don’t want someone to slip and fall and get injured.

The same goes for hair and jewelry.  The rules are there to protect the cheerleaders from getting hurt.  Hair gets caught and jewelry gets ripped out and scratches… all easy to prevent.

Most of the safety violations come from stunting.  A good coach is not going to allow a team to perform stunts that are illegal.  Not at practice or at games.  The stunts have been made illegal for a reason.  If you perform it and someone gets hurt, the coach can be sued.   There are so many variations and outlets for creativity in the stunting portion, there shouldn’t be a need to try and show off with illegal stunts.   This answer leads me into the last question.

As a coach, how do you politely approach a fellow coach about rule/safety violations or illegal stunts without seeming snotty?
Many times when you witness another team performing an illegal stunt or a safety violation the coach simply is not aware of the rule.  Many new coaches just get put into place with VERY little training.  The athletic director for their program should take the time to get them a rule book and put them in contact with another coach or a cheer coach association that can help them get started.  The doesn’t happen very often in schools because cheer is passed over so often by the admin.

As a coach that has addressed the issue of safety violations too many times to count with other coaches here is how I deal with it.

I take out my rule book (which I ALWAYS have on me) and find the actual violation.  I then go over to the coach and ask them for a second of their time.  Ask them if they were aware of what the team did was a violation.  Many times they have no idea.  Our state association has a reporting policy for vilations and repeat offenders start receiving fines of $500 per violation.  I usually let them know that I just don’t want to see them in trouble and they might want to check out their rule book.  If they don’t have a rule book I tell them where to find on and who to contact with any more questions.

Fo course there are some coaches that I know are well aware of the rules and what is legal and what is not.  If I have a good rapport with that coach I will go chat with them about it (rule book in hand).  Many times the coaches don’t teach the kids the trick and don’t realize they are doing it. 

There are always situations where I am in a school where I don’t have a good rapport with the coach.  If I feel that the discussion will get heated I send them an email after the game.  I do feel like I should talk to them about it, but during a game or face to face isnt always the best answer.  When I send them an email, I typically CC our state director on it so that they can be aware of the situation. 

Do I feel it is important to address the issue of safety voilations.  In our current society of people and parents that don’t understand the system but are quick to lawyer up, I would hate to see all the cheerleaders and coaches punished by the poor choices of one.  The consequence could be the elimination of stunting in our programs and possibly even the program it self.  I have seem both extremes happen this year alone with individual schools this year.  I don’t want that to go state wide.

I will address the following questions in upcoming blogs. 
  • How do you quickly teach a basket toss?
  • How does a parent help their child work on jumps at home?
  • How do you run a successful tryout?
  • How do you pick girls when you might have a girl who you have conflicts with or personalities clash. Especially with a parent, do you put her on the team again?
I hope that the answers to these questions satisfy your need for the letter Q!  It has been great to see the support from my friends in submitting the questions. 


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

There is a saying that says: “Practice is where champions are made, competition is where you pick up the trophy.”  This is true only if you know how to practice.  A good practice is well organized so that the athletes and coach do not waste time. 

Goals should be set each day, week, month and season.  Start with the biggest goal and break it down to the month, week and day.  Assess your team early on to find its strengths and weaknesses as a whole and on an individual level.  Make sure that practices are geared toward improvement and not just going through the motions.

I always start practice with a short discussion about our goals for the day.  Letting the team know what to expect make it easier to keep them focus for the whole time.  It may even help if you take a large piece of paper and write out the objectives so that you can mark them off as you go. 

Start the physical part of your practice with a warm-up.  There are many choices for warming up.  What ever you choose, make sure that you are getting the blood flowing heart rate elevated and starting to engage muscles.  Some coaches choose to have their team jog or do a dynamic warm-up and some dance.  I prefer to use the UCA warm-up.  It good choice because it warms up the body, does some light stretching, and allows me to have 6 minutes of time to process paperwork or finish preparing for practice.

There are certain skills that need to be addressed everyday.  Work on basic skills to help with memory of motion and timing as a team.  I have a few motion drills that we use to keep up on sharpness.  Then we do kicks and jumps.  I don’t worry about conditioning at this point because I want them to save their energy for the heart of the workout.  We condition at the end.

Tumbling is an important daily activity.  Have everyone start the same, forward rolls, handstands, cartwheels, round-offs, etc. and then work into standing and running tumbling.  Everyone starts together and when they reach their highest skill level have them step out to a skill group and work on drills that allow them to advance their skills. 

Then I transition into stunts.  Just like tumbling, warm up stunts the same.  Start with the basics and work up to the elite level stunts.  As a stunt groups hits their skill level have them work on skills and drills that allow them to work towards harder stunts.  Divide your time so that you can work on group, partner stunting, and some time for pyramids.  Set time limits to keep the kids on task.

At this point your team may be running out of energy.  Transition into working on dancing and learning cheers and chants.  Always take a little time to review what has been learned.  You don’t have to review everything, but keep their memories fresh.  Spend some time learning new material.  There should always be upcoming performances, halftimes and events that could use new material.  If you dont have an upcoming event... brainstorm things you can participate in.  Does the ROTC need cheerleaders at an upcoming event?  Is there a community event that you can perform at?

At the end of the physical part of practice have the team start conditioning.  I make sure that I do this when they are tired so that they can work on building stamina. There are hundreds of ways to integrate conditioning.  I don’t use the same one each day.  I mix it up and target different parts of the body each day.  There are games you can play that allow the team to run around and climb on each other.  You can utilize circuit training, workout videos; the schools weight room, etc.  If your not sure what to do you can always ask.  Check with the Track coach for plyometric drills, The Soccer coach for stamina, the Football coach for strength training.  Check to see if the P.E. department has workout videos that they use in class.  You are also welcome to ask me, I have MANY ideas that I can share… perhaps a topic for another day.

At the very end of practice, I save some time for team bonding activities and discussions.  Always review what you did that day and get the team input on their workout and performance.  See what they fell they excelled at and where the weaknesses were.  What they feel and what you see may not always be the same.  If they are not comfortable, they wont perform well.

When setting up your practice know your team and work on building them up as a whole.  A team that has a good understanding of the goal and what needs worked on focus’s better and works together well.  Find what unifies and motivates them. 

Practice doest not make perfect… Perfect Practice makes Perfect.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Getting organized as a coach can make the difference between the year from hell and your best season ever.  All it takes is a little start up time and the discipline to stick with it.  Here are a few of my tricks to make getting and staying organized easier.

Supply List
·        3-Ring Binder
·        Clear Page Protectors
·        Tab Dividers
·        Heavy-duty plastic folders with clasps to hold in hole-punched paper
·        Composition Book
·        Heavy Duty Bag.  Either a Duffle or Curriers bag

The front of the binder should have a master calendar.  I use Microsoft Word to create a calendar on my computer.  Print the whole year. Use this to add all events and record any absences that your cheerleaders tell you of in advance.  Make sure that you add all events that you have scheduled and dates for.  Update weekly with new events or changes.  Put your calendar in a page protector.

Next, have a Contact list for your team or teams.  Include the full name, cell phone and email for each student.  You can also add the name, phone and email address of a parent.  Put your contact list in a page protector.

Also, keep any forms or documents that your school uses.  I keep a list of all administrators and contact info.  There is a gym schedule of what teams schedule the gym and when.  Include a contact list for other coaches.  In addition, the game schedules for the other sports teams on campus.

You should have a tab section will blank copies of all of the paperwork that the students get.  Keep it in order and as you hand out papers, add one to this section.  You can write the date that you handed it out on the bottom.

Have a tab for each team.  In my case, I have a tab for the JV and one for Varsity.  Include copies of all the paperwork that was signed.  It is organizd by student and in alphabetical order. My binder includes, permission slips, fees list, cheerleader information sheet, team rules, spirit pack order form, any doctor’s notes and parent communications.

Make sure that you have a tab for individual accounting.  Depending on your records this should include a ledger of any fees paid, the dues required by each student and any money raised from fundraising.

At the back of your binder keep any discipline forms and injury report forms so they are ready when needed.

Most schools require you to carry an emergency form or clearance form for each child in case of emergency’s.  I keep copies of these for each cheerleader in the plastic folders.  I keep it in my coach’s bag with my team binder.  It is seperate for access.  If an emergency occurs I don't want to dig through the team binder to find the one form.

Purchase a simple composition book use it to keep a daily journal.  Record any absences, tardies, discipline, and parent contact.  Jot down what you did that day at practice or the game and the overall feeling of the event.  I also write down what we did for team bonding that day.  If we had a discussion, I record the topic and notes on what was said.  This becomes a great tool if you ever have to go back and remember and absences, conversations with students, what day you taught a dance, etc. 

In my coach’s bag, which is my life for the duration of cheer season, I keep my team binders, the emergency forms, my NFHS rulebook, coach’s journal, pens, pencils, hair ties, timer, calculator, and scratch paper.  Depending on your team you can adjust what you carry.  My bag has LOTS of pockets and a heavy duty strap since I drag it everywhere!

This all may seem like a lot, but if you set it up in the beginning and once a week update your binder, journal and clean out your bag you will stay on top of your cheer life.  Use it as a learning tool and set an example for your teams to stay on track!