Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Coaching Cheerleading as a Career

Recently I was asked to write for an interview regarding Coaching Cheerleading as a Career.

The questions were good and I feel that my answers were honest.  After sitting down with a newer coach this week, I thought back to this interview and how much it might help someone who was looking to this as a career option or just coaching in general.

Here is the interview:

How did you decide to get into coaching and what steps did you take to begin?
When I was in high school our coach needed help with the freshman squad, teaching them cheers, chants, dances, stunts, etc.  She was not able to attend their games so I would go to guide and help them.  At the end of the year she gave me a whistle (which I still have) and thanked me for being her Junior Coach.  The next year I was able to help out with a different school across town with the same basics.  After graduation I came back as a volunteer coach and through the years had different opportunities open up for coaching.  I stayed up on trends and the safety rules, taking classes as I could.  Eventually I was in a position where I could attend the larger conferences and get more intense training. Each coaching position opened doors to other positions and I eventually ended up here.

What training would you recommend for someone wanting to enter this field now?
Get online and take the available training.  Find a successful Youth, High School or Collegiate coach and ask to mentor them, learning their style and the ins and outs of the sport. Coach a youth team to get your foot in the door, most of what we need to know is best learned through trial and error. 

What is the salary range for a person in this field?
Little to none.  Youth and volunteer coaches are paid nothing.  High school coaches make the district minimums ranging from $500.00 to $1,600.00 per season depending on tenure.  Collegiate coaches can make on average $33,000.00 per year depending on the school and the designation of their team.  The more athletic and competitive a team, the more the college coaches will earn.  We don’t do this for the money and rarely can you live on a cheer coach’s salary.

What types of people survive and do well in this field?
Strong personalities and those who are well organized and resourceful.  Cheerleading is not revered as one of the big sports, so often times cheerleaders practice locations and budgets suffer.  Successful coaches will find ways to advocate for their teams and get funds through sponsors and fundraisers.  Knowledge is key here.  You have to know your skills and rules for your teams as well and how to navigate the administration and politics.

What personal qualities do you feel are most important in your work and why?
I am highly motivated and organized.  I have a plan and a goals for the program. I am constantly working coaching style and the program in a certain direction.  I am good at motivating and convincing my athletes to work towards a common goal and the benefit of the program. I can adjust my coaching style for each participant as needed to help them stay motivated.  I am stern and no-nonsense.  I don’t pity my athletes, but I do help them to understand the benefits of every situation.

What are tasks you do in a typical work day? How would you describe them?
Coaching goes far beyond practice and games.  Daily I work through mountains of paperwork.  I am constantly reviewing videos of my teams for ways to progress skills and work more effectively.  I watch videos of other teams and schools for choreography and effectiveness of their program.  I keep logs and journals of daily squad activity.  I work on budgets, fundraising, accounting, monitor social media, and promoting my team to the school and community in a positive light.

Once at practice we work through a practice plan to stay on track to meet goals and performance expectations.  After, I again evaluate practice and progress to plan the next practice. 
Game days are for evaluating the team and its effectiveness of crowd-leading and skills.  Always collecting data and thinking ahead to how to get better.
Outside of the 2 hour practices and 3-5 hours of games, I spend about 2 hours per day on administrative and behind the scenes tasks. 

What types of stress do you experience on the job?
The biggest stress I have is motivating others.  I have to convince teenagers to buy in to my program goals and get them to work hard to achieve them.  It’s not always easy and often the goals of the team and program change throughout the year based on the level of dedication and commitment of my athletes.

What do you like least about your job and why?
My least favorite part of my job is the lack of respect my kids get from their peers and the community.  People have antiquated ideas of what cheerleading is and how hard they work.  Not all cheer teams are the same, many don’t have the expectations that we do.  Some have more, but the fact the people just write my kids off as ditsy girls in skirts is frustrating.

What do you like most about your job and why?

This is the hardest question because my favorite things about my job are not tangible.  You would think that it would be the trophies or the recognition, but when I see the looks on the kids faces when they accomplish something they didn’t think they could do, I am proud.  When they successfully hit a routine that they have been working hard on, I am proud.  I love the fact that so many kids choose to sacrifice their social time and family time to spend with something extracurricular.  They choose to be a part of a team and support others.  My cheerleaders are some of the sweetest, most selfless, caring individuals, and I am blessed that they continue to work hard to make the program successful. I love making a difference in their lives and how much they continue to make a difference in mine.