Monday, April 29, 2013

Your piece of the puzzle

Last year I had my team participate in a team bonding project. When I first started I though it was going to be just fun and it turned out being one of the most powerful projects of the season.

As a team we were a little disjointed, we were senior heavy and many of them had caught the senioritis bug and were not working to their potential.  The underclassmen were struggling to carry the team and motivate the senior girls that should have been motivating them.  It resulted in weak practices, some very poor performances and the team missing opportunities that could have been amazing.  I had seen the project on Pinterest and figured that it wouldn’t hurt to try.

Find a jigsaw puzzle that has at least as many pieces as you do team members.  Each teammate gets a puzzle piece.  If you have extra, you can take one or give the extras to the captains and managers.

The directions are to decorate the blank side any way they want.  They can color, paint, glitter, add stickers, feathers, etc.  The only rule is that they have to leave the puzzle piece in tact so that we can assemble the puzzle.  Make sure that all decorations are firmly attached.

I handed out the pieces to the puzzle, gave them the directions, and two days to decorate the puzzle.  At practice, I had them get their puzzle pieces and assemble the puzzle with the original image facing up on a board.  Once they had all the pieces collected and assembled, they flipped the puzzle over to reveal the team puzzle.  There were a few girls that did not bring their puzzle piece, so the puzzle was not complete. 

It was interesting that the girls that were the least invested in the team were the ones that did not participate.  The message sent to the team was that you have to do the work to be part of the puzzle and no team is complete without all of its team members.  The team members that did participate were able to see themselves as a part of the bigger picture and it actually motivated them to work harder at the remaining practices that season.  They even started pushing the girls that were slacking off more.  They saw the potential they had and knew that in order to complete the puzzle every piece was important.


X-Ray Vision

Seeing beyond the excuses and learning that Coaches always know.  Always.

This topic letter was a bit of a challenge until a fellow coach of mine offered up X-Ray.  As a coach of teenagers, I see a lot and I hear a lot.  In order to maintain the image that we want for our team, we have to be able to read a personality almost instantly.  As a veteran cheerleader and cheer coach I have gotten good at reading my squad and knowing when they are trying to BS me.  As a great friend of mine says, “You cant BS a BS’er”.  When I was a teenager, I thought I was sneaky enough to get away with things and I was ALWAYS caught.  My mom ALWAYS knew what I was up too.  Years after I was in high school and no longer living at home I asked her how she did it.  She simply said pay attention and listen. 

Society has gotten to the place where monitoring my team’s social media sites is important to maintain the image we have set for our program.  At tryouts and at my information meetings I tell the kids what I am looking for them to do and why.  I ask them to add our team page as a friend on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.  If they are following the rules there should be nothing to hide.  There have been a few times where my students were at a party or participating in something that they shouldn’t have been and it has shown up on a social media site.  I don’t stalk their pages, I simply read through and if something catches my eye I look into it.  99% of the time my kids are fine.  I see some language issues and a few questionable photos now and then, but for the most part, they are good. 

As a coach, I feel that it is important to monitor these sites.  You have a program that’s success is dependent on young girls making the correct choices.  They need to understand the responsibility that they have to the team.  Even colleges are getting on the social media circus.  Our local university here expects it squad members to work hard and portray them selves in a positive manner.  They have IIE on many of their practice clothes.  IIE means, Image Is Everything.  Putting those three simple letters on the practice clothes is just a small reminder to them to stay focused and do the right things. 

This past weekend was the tryout for the university.  As a coach, I highly suggest that if you have the opportunity to attend a tryout, you should go.  It is amazing to see the differences between high school and college.  While many of the things that college tryouts do we are not allowed to do in high school, there are so many things that we can take from watching back to our teams.  Each girl is required to attend tryouts wearing the school colors.  They must be “game ready.”  Hair should be done and clothes nice and neat.  Makeup on, clean shoes, manicured hands. Be on time, no phones, pay attention, etc.  They want to see what you will look like on the sidelines of a game or at an event for the school and if you have the discipline to be in their program.  If you don’t present yourself well at tryouts you are probably not going to during the season. 

Pay attention and listen.  Watch social media.  Listen to them when they are sitting around talking on breaks.  Pay attention to what they wear to school.  Talk to teachers.  Communicate with parents.  Listen to their friends in the bleachers during games.  You will find out quite a bit just by doing these things.  It matters. When I make comments to my team about a party or get-together that I knew about, or things they are doing, they always ask me and I always say, I know everything.  You don’t want to be that coach that gets the call from their athletic director saying that half your team is sitting out for 6 weeks because they made the choice to drink at a party and got busted by the police. (Guilty).  It may seem like a lot more work, but if you truly want your program to improve, you need to monitor your team outside of practice just as much as inside.  They don’t stop being cheerleaders when they take off the uniform.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Workout Woes

Mixing up your cheer workouts throughout the year.

Lets face it, jog, stretch, motions, jumps, stunts, tumbling, dancing, cheers, chants, conditioning… over 100 times in a season.  Almost everyday for 8 months… I think we would all get bored!  Keeping our athletes motivated to come to practice and give 100% each time is a challenge.  Sometime around mid November, the kids start to get burnt out.  Keeping the fun in practice is one of the many ways to mix up your practices and make each day, week or month more exciting.

Warm-up.  I know my teams HATE to run, so we alternate our warm up each day.  We have a conditioning warm-up that we do to music, we jog and stretch, or we DANCE.  If you have been to a wedding in the last 5 years, you have probably seen the Cha-Cha Slide or the Wobble.  These are great ways to get the bodies warm and muscles loosened up.  In the cheer world, we do a few as well.  The Georgia Bounce, Monkey on a Stick and Ice Cream and Cake are a few cheerleader favorites.  All of which have specific music and motions that match.  You can find the how-tos on Youtube, and if you need the music for any of them, I can email it to you.

Games.  Sometimes I use games for conditioning.  The cheerleaders get to run around and play games, at the same time they are getting in a cardio workout. Depending on the game, maybe get in some light weight lifting.  These are good the day before a game or major performance to help relieve stress and condition without pushing to soreness.  Red Light, Green Light and Sharks and Minnows are great for cardio.  Like the dances, cheerleaders have some games that they learn at camp that are also good for cardio and strength.  Lovers Leap and Ships and Sailors are all variations of Simon Says.  Some times they are running around, some times climbing on each other, jumping, lying down, spinning around, etc. 

Themed Practice.  Another way to keep the kids looking forward to practice is to have themed days or dress up days.  Pick one day a month or so and set a theme.  Super Hero, Princess, Decades (50’s/60’s, 70’s, 80, etc.), Colored practices, or animals are all fun ideas for dress up days.  On these days, the cheerleaders would dress up in clothes that represent the theme.  If it is colors, assign each stunt group a color and the group that has the best representation of that color wins a prize. For decades, have each grade be a different decade. You can choose your themes by month as well. 

Here are a few samples of what my teams have done in the past:
  • July – Christmas/Red, White & Blue
  • August – Super Hero Training Camp
  • September – Pirate (National Talk Like A Pirate Day is this month!)
  • October – Halloween
  • November – Boot Camp (for Veterans Day)
  • December – Beach Theme (opposite of Christmas in July)
  • January – Disco or Jungle Theme
  • February – Pink out practice (Valentines Day)

You get the idea. Many times, we plan food or snacks around these dress-up days and make it a break from the norm.  Just make sure the kids know that they need to be safe for working on material.  Make sure they remove all capes, hats, boots, and accessories before stunting!

Here are a few more ideas that you could implement:
  • Picnic Practice -Practice all day in a park.  Each member brings a different food.  Work on new material.
  • Pillow Cases -Each person brings a white pillowcase to practice and Squad members draw and color each other’s pillowcases. Maybe before going away to camp?
  • Quote of the Day -Squad members take turns bringing a poem or a positive quote to practice to share.
  • Secret Pals -Week, Month, or Season.  Assign or draw for names.  Send notes, small gifts, etc.

Mix it up and keep it fun.  Break up the monotony of the everyday routine.  This will help squad bonding and creating those memories that last long after senior night!


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Variety in Coaching

The longer you coach, the more you see. 
The more you see, the more you learn. 
The more you learn, the more you have to teach. 

As a veteran coach I am asked all the time how I figured out my coaching style and what to do in certain situations.  My answer is always the same… Time.  When I started out coaching that first JV team, I had so many plans and dreams of what they would be.  I quickly learned that my dreams and plans are directly related to what they want to do.  There is a saying “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”  This is SO true with coaching youth and teens!  As adults we tend to forget that teens don’t have the same plans or dreams that we do.  They do not see the world as we do.  We see the potential in our athletes when our athletes see sleep and food.

A long time coach will tell you that they start each year with those same plans and goals that they did the first year.  The difference is, the longer you have been coaching the better you get and motivation and getting the team to buy into what your trying to do. You have to change the way you coach a little bit each year to motivate the different types of students and different types of athletes.  You don’t change your expectations, you simply change the delivery. 

I have former athletes that come back, watch practices, and say to me, “Man! You have gotten so soft!  We would NEVER have gotten away with what these guys are doing!”  Also, some come back and say to me that I have gotten mean and they are glad they cheered for me when they did.  At the end of the year, the teams all accomplish the same goals.  They all learned what they needed to learn and participated to the best of their ability.  Very rarely do we have teams that finish a season a disappointment.  The teams learn to work hard every year their own way. 

Some years I am mean and some years I am super nice.  I have learned how to read my team and know how to motivate them.  There are still some years or some seasons where I miss the mark and the teams are not as good as they could have been.  Sometimes it is my coaching and sometimes it is the kids.  Sometimes you get cheerleaders and sometimes you get girls that want to be called cheerleaders.  You learn to do the best you can with what you have. 

At the beginning of every year, I start practices with the same basic plan.  We review or learn motions, jumps, basic tumbling, the fight song and our stunt progressions.  I learn about the team while they are mastering these skills.  If they have the motivation to get through their basics, I know that they are a motivated group and I can push them a little harder.  If it takes the full three weeks of summer practices to learn the basics, I know I have a playful team on my hands and if I push to fast, they will push back.  The teams that learn slower are not bad; they just have a different focus. This theory works most of the time.  I am always evaluating and re-evaluating my team, taking the motivational temperature of their skills.  I have also learned to pay attention to their school schedules.  Major school functions have a direct impact on the athletes.  I know that if we are coming up on Homecoming week that I am going to lose their focus for a while.  We have to be solid in our routines at least a week before any major school function.  If not, we will not have a stellar performance. 

For those coaches who have been coaching a while, please reach out to the new coaches around you and share your experiences.  They are going to need advice when their vision of what those first seasons fizzles before them.

For the coaches that are new and have all the dreams and goals and plans, please keep those dreams!  Listen to the coaches around you that have been there.  They can offer advice and guidance to make sure your dreams are realized!

We are not alone in our coaching.  We should never have to reinvent the wheel!  Listen and learn from each other!  There is a lot of knowledge and experience around you.

Uplifting Exercise

A few days ago, I was reading a book of motivational games I picked up from a yard sale.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but it is for cooperate companies, not for sports.  There are a ton of great ideas that you can adapt for sports programs and cheerleading in general.  It really focuses on goal setting.  The book is called: The Big Book of Motivation Games.  By Robert Epstein, Ph.D.

I saw an exercise in it that I used every year for my cheerleaders before a big performance.
The exercise is called “All That You Can Be” in the book. 

In a Nutshell:
“In a partially-guided imagery exercise, participants visualize themselves working at their peak performance.”

What It’s For:
Use this game if you want to: perform at your peak; boost yur energy when its low; envision and achieve your personal goals; motivate your staff members (Cheerleaders) to perform at their peak; etc.

I use it to help the team visualize themselves performing the routine perfectly in their mind so that when they get on the floor or field they have already ‘done’ it.  It requires no special materials or handouts and only takes about 10 minutes.  It boosts confidence in each athlete quite a bit! 

What To Do:
Advise participants to sit in a relaxed position, close their eyes and breathe easy.  Then recite the following text in a soothing voice:

What I Do:
Have the participants lay on the floor, not touching each other, eyes closed.  I slowly start talking them through the moments before the routine and all the way through until the performance is done. It is important that they think of their answers and stay quiet. 
Here is what we would do if we were preparing for competition:
*Imagine sitting in the bleachers waiting your turn.  What do you see?  Hear?
*Your in the practice room.  Imagine the mat, the other teams stretching and warming up. 
*Next your on deck, standing in the tunnel.  Look around at your teammates.  Imagine how excited they will be when you perform your best. 
*Now, take the floor.  Imagine running onto the mat.  Do you see the crowd?  Do you see the judges?

At this point I start playing their competition music and have them mentally run through the routine. After the music is over we go back.
You've hit your ending stunt and dismount to the floor.  As you rally off, do you see your friends and family?  Do you see your team mates?  Do you see your coach?  How does it feel to be done?

When we are done with the mental run-through, I ask them about how they felt.  Were they proud? Did everything hit in their mind? 

If they had problems in a certain area in their mind, those are the areas we focus on at practice.  It is important to discuss the exercise at the end.  It helps the kids understand why we are doing it and it gives them the opportunity to SEE themselves performing correctly.  We do this every time before we compete and they all like it. 

Give it a try for your team, see how it works!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Staying Organized

Getting organized as a coach can make the difference between a hectic year 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 a 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 school 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 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 signed paperwork.  Organize it alphabetically by student. Student paperwork 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 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 a parent emergency form or clearance form for each child in case of emergency.  These include all contact information for parents and backup contacts along with allergies, injuries and hospital/Doctor information.  I keep copies of these for each cheerleader in the plastic folders.  I keep the folder in my coach’s bag with my team binder.  It is separate for easy 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!


Monday, April 22, 2013


Cleaning up your program’s image - PART TWO

Yesterday, I told the story of taking on a program in need of help.  Today, I would like to tell you with a little more detail how we turned a group of misfit girls into a successful cheer team.  Please remember that this did not happen over night, and is in fact still a work in progress.  As the students grow and evolve, the program must grow and evolve along with them.  Patience is the key to coaching any sport!

The first step is to evaluate your program and determine its strengths and weaknesses.  Talk to teachers, staff, administration, students, and parents to get a feel for the image as it stands and what they would like to see.  See what needs work and what needs praised.  There will be some of both.  Attend your schools athletic coaches meetings.  Even if your state/district/school does not consider cheerleading a sport, you should start to treat them as athletes and work towards equality.  Treating your cheerleaders as athletes will help their image improve from ditzy girls jumping up and down on the sidelines to hard working teammates.

With the information from talking to the community, you will need to decide what your teams focus will be.  You could be strictly a sideline team that supports athletics and school events or you could incorporate a competition element into your program.  This focus will be important when determining your team rules and expectations.

Once you have a list of things to work toward and you know your team focus, you can begin to develop a team handbook or constitution that will govern the cheerleaders and offer a defined set of expectations.  You will want to make this easy to understand for people that may not be familiar with cheerleading terms or the athletic community.  It needs to cover all aspects of the program.  Include everything from tryouts, grades, commitment, responsibilities, uniforms, practices, discipline, banquet, fundraising, etc.

Now you can start the task of evaluating the cheers, chants and dances in your program.  Try to eliminate moves and words that could be considered provocative.  Audit your music and make sure that everything is language and image appropriate.  Simply because it is on the radio or you see it on TV doesn’t mean that it is projecting the image you want for your team.  You may also want to check your uniforms.  Make sure that the skirts are not too short and the tops cover mid-riff areas.  Dancing and cheering in short skirts is already risky, we don’t need to shrink the clothes to enhance the imagination of our crowd!

Once you have gone through your rules, your material, your wardrobe and cleared everything with your administration you need to host a parent meeting BEFORE tryouts to express the new expectations and explain to the parents and cheerleaders what you’re trying to accomplish.  If they understand the rules before trying out it will help eliminate surprises later.

During your tryouts, evaluate your potential team on more than just skills.  How did they show up to tryouts?  Check their social media; Are they projecting an image in their daily lives that will reflect well on your program?  Do they help others?  Are they taking direction well from you and your staff?   These things may sound harsh or unnecessary, but they will make an impact on your team in three months when you are tired of working together and stressed out.

It is important to share your team goals and the image you want to project.  Show them examples of other teams (preferably not in your area) that have a poor team image.  Show them examples of teams that have a good team image and include them in the brainstorming of how to accomplish the new image.  If they don’t buy into what you are trying to do and don’t want to make an effort, regardless of how good they are they will not be a good fit for your team.  You and your team will struggle with them all season long. 

I hope this puts you in the right direction for gaining control and respect for your program!


Quality Control

Cleaning up your program’s image - PART ONE

When I took this coaching position 8 years ago, I was the fourth coach in 3 years.  The coach that started the 2004-05 school year quit mid-winter season and the athletic director had to step in and cover until the end of the year.  When I interviewed, one of the biggest concerns of the administration was that they girls have more discipline and we start to recruit more athletic and academic students to be cheerleaders.  They wanted a better image and less drama.  Through our discussions, we decided that the best way to do that was to develop a team handbook that covered all expectations and team rules.  We had a master set of rules that the administration could stand behind when parents had an issue.  We also decide to work very hard at keeping costs low to attract more of the less fortunate athletes that would excel in cheer.

We had a few issues come up the first two years with them pushing buttons and trying out the rules.  The girls on the team that were juniors and seniors didn’t want to follow the rules because they felt that the seniors before them were allowed to run wild.  They pushed the rules every chance they got!  There were parties that involved alcohol and strippers, there was fighting, drama, issues of language and disrespect for my and the rest of the team.  I went to the football coach, who had an incredible team of respectful and hard working players.  I asked him what I needed to do to get my cheerleaders on the write page.  He told me that I needed to stick with my rules.  Understand that I couldn’t change my Juniors and Seniors.  They were going to run wild and push buttons.  If I wanted to leave them on the team, I needed to just be ready to fight with them and pick my battles.  He told me that in order to turn the program around I needed to start with my underclassmen.  Treat them like I would when the program was run they way I wanted.  Show them how great it could be and get them to buy into what we were trying to do.  I struggled a little with the underclassmen.  They still saw the seniors breaking rules and being disrespectful and all I could do was ensure that things would get better once that class graduated.

The third year things started out rough.  My seniors from the year before went out with a bang and left a bad impression on the student body and teaching staff about cheerleaders.  They spoke bad about me and what I was trying to do.  When tryouts came along we only had 10 or so tryout.  I ended up taking 8 solid cheerleaders and one potential mess (she quit shortly before camp).  That year we decided to jump in with both feet and make the program a success.  With the exception of one girl, everyone on the team was brand new and never cheered before.  We started from scratch and made that everyone had the basics.  They were young, but they had great spirit.  They worked hard and did everything they could to be involved.  They didn’t want the same image of the teams before them and we rewarded them for that.  Each Monday we brought in snacks to the team to celebrate the successes of the previous week.  They were the first group of cheerleaders to get to cheer on boxes.  (Wooden boxes designed to raise the cheerleaders up about 18 inches to see over the football players on the sidelines.)  They were the first group in many years to get to travel with the football team to away games.  The girls started earning the respect of the teachers and a few of the students. They understood what they needed to and how they needed to do it.  That year we were able to attend the state cheer competition and became the 3A state runner ups in the show cheer and partner stunt divisions.  They saw success for the first time in a long time.  The cheerleaders and the school had something to be proud of.

For my “R” Blog, I will cover Respect and how to earn it.  I will go into detail about defining squad expectations and focus.  I will also explain the importance of your parent meetings and your evaluation skills.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Planning Practice

I think that maybe I have gone through enough touchy feely stuff this week.  
Lets get back to some actual material...

You may have heard the phrase “Championships are won at practice, competition is just where you pick up the trophy.” 

There is a lot to be said about a well-run practice.  Organization, time management, goals and commitment are all key to a successful practice.  Many times cheerleaders have far more on their plate than time allowed at practice.  There are many ways to accomplish what you need during practice time. Evaluate your upcoming events and incorporate those things into your weekly goals.  Prioritize and work on the things that are most important and will take the longest to accomplish first. 

I have found that creating a practice plan helps keep me on track.
I have a binder that I have copies of the practice outline in.  Each day I fill in the goals for each day.

The outline looks like this:

At the end of each practice, I use the back of the practice plan to make notes about things that happened at Practice.  Record any praise or problems, goal achievement, etc.  If we did not accomplish something on the list that needs done I will make a note to remind myself to get back to it.

Fill in the blanks for the items that need attention the next day.  If you take something out to work on a special project, make a note.  If you notice that you are not getting through certain tasks, evaluate the time, determine if you need more time or if you need to keep the team on track, and focused.

One idea for staying within your time is to get a countdown timer.  I found a nice one at the dollar store that will count down to the second.  At the start of each task set the timer, when it goes off they have 1 minute to get a drink of water and move to the next task. 

Some coaches find that writing out the plan on a large piece of paper to display at practice is helpful.  The whole team can see it and know what they are working on next.

You could also use the poster idea as a reward tool.  If you want to get out of practice early or if they want time at the end of practice, make a list of all the things that they need to accomplish before the end of practice.  If they get through the list early, they may get out early or they can have the left over time to work on something special.

Most importantly – Make Notes. 
If I don’t write something down, it doesn't happen.  Make a list, make a chart, or write goals on a calendar… What ever works for you will help you and your team successful.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Out in the Crowd

Game day
Friday night
Crisp autumn air
You've practiced
You’re ready
Fans everywhere 
A sea of red and white
Smells of grilled hamburgers
Fresh popcorn  
The Announcer
The Team
National Anthem
Quarter breaks
The Band
Winning touch down
The final score

These are all things that we experience on any given Friday.  
Yet, somewhere in the mix of all these things is a little girl.  A little girl watching your every move.  She is dressed in her uniform, hair up, poms in hand.  She looks onto the field in awe and dreams that one day she will be just like you.  She practices her cheers.  Jumps around in the living room and tumbles in the back yard… 

You are her idol. 
You are her dream.
That is a lot of responsibility.  
High expectations to live up to. 
Are you ready?  
Can you handle the pressure?  
Don’t let that little girl down...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

No Cheerleader Left Behind

Supporting each other in more than just stunts.

Cheerleaders are responsible for so many things around the school and community.  Many times they have issues happening in their own lives that make things harder on them.  Some kids have a ton of support at home for the activities that they want to participate in and some kids struggle with parents and priorities.  We all want our kids to grow up to be contributing members of society but there is a fine line between to strict and too lenient.  While we cannot control our squad’s home lives, we can try to make their cheer lives positive. 

In our practices we have a very strict ‘leave it at the door policy.’  Regardless of what has happened during the day, we are to come to practice ready to work and give 100%.  As a coach, it is my job to read my team and see what direction practice needs to go.  There are just some days when we need to sit down and have a team bonding chat and some days when we need to plow through our material and go home. 

The biggest thing I expect of my squads is that at the end of the day they are a family.  Families don’t always like each other and don’t always get along, but at the end of the day we have each others back.  We accomplish this by learning about each other.  We learn what makes our teammates happy and sad, we learn to read when they are excited and when they need a hug. 

Here is a wonderful poem written about cheerleaders that does a good job of expressing what cheerleading is like:

Cheerleading is a way of life, shared by a chosen few.
It is working as a unit in everything you do.
Cheerleading is rivalry, the competition makes you strong.
It is sharing secrets and tears, learning to get along.
Cheerleading is that ongoing drive to be the very best.
It is patience, perseverance, and very little rest.
Cheerleading is having poise and charm with every word you say.
It is total dedication twenty-four hours a day.
It is always being ready with encouragement or a smile,
Cheerleading is your chance to express your individual style.
Cheerleading is reaching out to comfort a sister who is sad.
It is defending each other in the good times and the bad.
Cheerleaders are always there whenever someone asks,
They treasure the present moment and let go of the past.
Cheerleading is a talent to be able to shine on cue,
It is hiding the pain and anguish that if only people knew.
Cheerleaders after all, are real people that sometimes get down,
But when they’re in the spotlight, they must never put on a frown.
Cheerleaders are actresses, always ready to go,
That is why it is important for all the world to know;
Not every girl can be a cheerleader, it takes a special kind.
Cheerleaders are full of like and a little bit out of their minds!


Material Makeover

Quick ways to update some of your outdated material.

Every couple of years it is a good idea to go through some of your cheers and chants and evaluate what is working and what isn't.  Sometimes we have cheers and chants on our list that we hear parents say “I know that one! We did it when I was in school!”  This is probably a good sign that your material needs some updating.

Here are a few things you can update and how:

Some schools take their chants and re-learn new moves every year.  Our school keeps chants from year to year but we take out the ones that are the least successful and add new ones from camp.

One fun way to get updated chants is to take your chant list, assign a chant to a pair of cheerleaders, and have them make up new motions or new words with the current motions.

Go through your cheers and see if you can incorporate stunts, jumps, tumbling, signs or poms into each one.  This will give the crowd something to look at other than just the cheerleaders yelling at them. 

The cheers then selves may need words updated or specific motions that are no longer appropriate or trendy.  You can always try the mash-up idea with your cheers and chants too.

If your squad has a dance that they really like doing you can change it up by simply changing the music.  Find a new song on the radio that gets everyone up and moving.  While top hits are never a good choice for competition routines, they can be very effective when working with the crowd. 

You can also do a dance mash-up.  Mash-ups are usually when you take two songs and mix them together to make a new song.  You can do this with your dances.  Have each girl choose her favorite 8 count from any dance that your squad does and take turns making up a new dance with those favorites.

My favorite way to make up new dance moves it by using chants.  Most chants are set up on an 8-count beat.  Just take those motions and set them to counts an add music!  This works really well if you need band dances or fill in 8-counts when working on choreography.

One thing you don’t want to do is get rid of the crowd involvement cheers and chants. Those take a few seasons to catch on anyway, if you change them all the time the crowd doesn't know WHAT you want them to do!

Best of Luck!!

Monday, April 15, 2013

L-O-V-E We Love Our JV

Supporting the developmental programs at your school and in your community to ensure the future successes of your program.

Very rarely in coaching, does a team come along with so much natural talent that as coaches we can just sit back and let them shine.  More often than not our talent comes from hard working kids that learned by being on the freshman or JV teams.  In some communities, these kids may have learned their skills on a youth team that fed into the high school program.  When kids play sports or participate in activities, they want to be on the best team or the highest team.  Some kids are lucky and get to start there, but mostly we have to start on the developmental team and work them up to being on Varsity. 

It can be discouraging for some kids to have to participate on JV.  As coaches, we need to treat the JV team with just as much respect and adoration that we do our Varsity.  These kids are the future of our program.  If we keep them motivated and excited about being a part of the ‘family’ then they will continue to work hard to make the program better.  Unfortunately, some coaches treat their JV or Freshman teams as lesser athletes and they lose them before they get to move up.

Here are a few ways you can keep them feeling good about them selves:

Team Bonding
Have the JV and Varsity teams bond together.  Have them work together on a project or assign ‘sisters.’ This will allow the varsity to remember what it was like to be on the JV team and they will help keep those kids excited.  Keeping JV on the same level emotionally with also help them with self-esteem and pride in their accomplishments.

Have your Varsity take time throughout the season to support the JV cheerleaders.  Have them attend games as fans to cheer on the cheerleaders.  Have them send notes and letters to keep them feeling motivated throughout the year.

Have your JV participate in some of the events that are usually only Varsity.  School assemblies or performances, halftimes or pre-game for Varsity games are other ways to keep them involved.  They will feel accomplished for being involved in the bigger events and it will make your cheerleader as a whole stand out more to have double the amount of cheerleaders on the floor.

JV-Only Events
Allow your JV cheerleaders to participate in a few functions that are just for them.  They could attend a competition with a JV category or perform at a community event that the Varsity is not attending.  Our JV Cheerleaders got participate in a parade and school carnival last year that the varsity could not go to because of an away game.  The JV cheerleaders had a great time and the varsity was able to watch the parade from the sidelines and support them before getting on the bus.

If you are lucky enough to have a youth program in your area that feeds into your school, work with those coaches.  Let them know what is expected of the cheerleaders and what you would like to see.  You could even go as far as having them attend some of your practices.  Your cheerleaders could teach the youth some of the traditional cheers and chants from your school and even the fight song.  It will make both programs better.

The most important thing is to remember that these kids are all really the same.  School Spirit should be equal regardless of what squad you are on.  Varsity gets more benefits because they have the better skills, but they are not better people. 


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Kindness Matters

Have you ever been sitting in line at Starbucks waiting on your order and pull up to the window and have the cashier tell you that your coffee had been paid for by the person in front of you? 

Perhaps you came home from a long day at work to find all the leaves in your yard had been raked and bagged for you.

What about standing in line at the grocery store with only one or two items in your hands and the person in front of you offers to let you go in front of them?

These Random Acts of Kindness probably made your day and you probably have had times when you offered your kindness to others and expected nothing in return…

Each year my squad chooses a charity or organization to support.  We typically host a fundraiser and donate the proceeds or use them to purchase items for the organization.  In the past we have supported Students Helping Students, The Animal Ark, and the Susan G. Komen Race for a cure, to name a few.

This year I feel that it is important that we choose something that we can continue throughout the season that does not involve money.  With the economy struggling, it will be nice to find a way to give back without having to pay to do so.

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation is the heart of the kindness movement whose aim is to help everyone create a better world by spreading awareness and increasing engagement in kind actions.  The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation inspires people to practice kindness and to pass it on to others.

This year, my cheerleaders will be participating in the RAK movement.  We will spend the whole year finding ways to spread kindness and cheer to friends, family, teachers and even strangers. 

Here are just a few ways they will accomplish this:
  • Give someone a flower
  • Eat lunch with someone new
  • Visit a sick friend
  • Offer a hug
  • Give an unexpected gift
  • Open a door
  • Plant a tree
  • Leave a thank you note
  • Give a compliment
  • Do a favor
  • Walk a dog
  • Donate your gently used items
  • Make a new friend

Please join us in the effort to make the world a better place.
You can read more about the Random Acts of Kindness foundation here: