It’s Time ….. 6 Tips to Surviving Cheersport Nationals

It’s that time of year again. You have been practicing since May. The squad is solid, the routine is locked and perfected. You know every move you teammate is going to make. It is time to make the trip to Atlanta, Ga for Cheersport Nationals.

The logistics begin to make this a successful trip for athletes and parents alike. The uniforms are packed the make-up and hairspray are strategically positioned for easy access. The hotel is booked and travel plans engaged. You have the inflatable furniture packed and the Stiletto heels ready to go! *LOUD RECORD SCREECHING SOUND* Wait What??????

Yes, you read that right. People do what they have to do to survive the Cheersport Nationals. It is an awesome competition and an incredible experience. It needs to be managed carefully or it can quickly spiral into a massive challenge on many levels. Here are some tips to make sure you maximize your experience.

  1. Leave the Jimmy Choo’s at home! This is no joke. You will walk miles upon miles going from warm up room, to competition area, to awards. Bring the FitBit because you will rack up the steps more than you would even believe. The last three years we have walked over six miles per day. Bring comfortable shoes!X.jpg
  2. If you are going to bring the inflatable furniture do it in style!Listen, i’m not here to judge. You are going to see inflatable furniture up in this bad boy. Folks have to do what they have to do. Parents who have more than three athletes competing have my personal blessing to bring an inflatable sectional couch to the competition if needed. There is a ton of standing and a lot of downtime. Stay comfortable people you will need your rest! Just make sure you coordinate and do it in style!36491-blog1.jpg
  3. Remember this competition is not about you- For the younger children ( heck even parents), this place is extremely intimidating. There will be close to 70,000 people at Cheersport this year. The Georgia World Congress Center has its own ZIP CODE for a reason. Remember your team will be extremely amped up and excited. There is a lot of pressure to execute and the electricity is infectious. If you can simply put yourself in the shoes of your athlete you will be fine. Keep the drama to a minimum and go with the flow. Don’t sweat the small stuff. (There will be a ton of small stuff!) Keep your focus on helping your athlete through the day. Pace yourself, and take in the experience it awesome.
  4. Take a break from the Competition festivities! If pulsating cheer music for 8-9 hours is your thing fantastic! Sit there and take it all in. For most, it will be healthy to take in something outside of the competition. Luckily there is tons to do within short walking distance of the competition. Take a look at the spectator packet for a ton of great deals and activities for the weekend. Most of what you need to know can be found right HERE. My personal favorite is the circus, but I am a kid at heart.
  5. Come out to Stingrays and make new friends Listen, it’s a long weekend and teams from all over the world will be here. It would be a shame not to share this wonderful experience with others. Share some kindness and some sportsmanship we all in this together for this long weekend. For most, this is an annual experience it’s good to share with others. If you come in early, make sure to come out and visit The Stingray Allstars in Marietta, Ga Its a short drive from downtown Atlanta. There are teams that practice and visit from all over the world. Swing by and say hi.

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  6. Watch the best of the best- The fight to watch the Senior teams is intense. It gets ugly trying to get a position to watch the best teams in the world compete. Just be aware and careful especially if you have little ones. If you let your guard down before a popular team comes up, the crowd get feisty very fast jockeying for position. If your team is lucky enough to hit both days you MIGHT win. If that happens, you will have a lifelong memory for both your athlete and yourself. Even if you don’t, you will never forget the experience and you can build off it in the future.811C1664-66C1-4A74-9282-66731933FF6B

 

7. Watch a Cheersport Documentary- If you have never been, take a look at this documentary of the 2018 National Champion Black Rays. It’s an up close and personal example of the entire weekend through the eyes of the team and their quest to win a National Championship and earn a bid to Summit.

You have been working all year. Now is the payoff time. Stay safe and enjoy your time. Plan ahead and allow plenty of time to do anything. Make sure to plan your meals unless you want to live off of Dippin Dots and Limited food options which is what I do. If you see me make sure and say hello. I would love to talk to and I am sure my daughters would love to meet you! Cheers! Let me know some of your awesome or not so awesome Cheersport National stories.

 

Unless you are a “Cheerlebrity” … you are worthless…

In a follow-up to my previous post If you are in Business…NEVER hire an Allstar Cheerleader I wanted to discuss a topic that was talked about as the blog was shared. More than a few times the word “Cheerlebrity” came up. It is a fair assertion and a topic that needs to be addressed. It is no secret that there are a few Cheerlebrities out there that represent the sport of Allstar Cheerleading. Just as with any sport there will be a few athletes that shine or are more popular with others.

The word “Cheerlebrity” is one that most of the kids that have adopted the moniker desperately try to lose. Most of the time, they did not ask for the “fake fame”. There are a few that fan the flames and beg for the attention, but that is the exception, not the rule. I guess my point is, for every Cheerlebrity point flyer, there are tens of thousands of team players that want to make lifetime memories with their team and work together to hit that routine. As we teeter dangerously by dangling an unrealistic goal for everyone to be a Cheerlebrity we lose the focus on what makes Allstar cheer so special. The special word I am referring to is”teamwork”.Squad goals

The Grape Rays = Teamwork

Most will tell you, the only people on a squad that qualify for the term “Cheerlebrity” are the coaches who masterfully coordinate and press for excellence to get the most out their team. What you will find, is that the coaches will then deflect all of the kudos to the kids that make up that team. The infinite circle that defines greatness is an unbreakable force of love and culture that exudes when a team gels and accomplishes incredible things together. When that happens, the memories created on that team are unbreakable. I guarantee if you ask a Summit Champion or World Champion AllStar how many Instagram or Twitter followers a teammate had 5 years after they won, they will not know or care.

In any sport there are some that are more popular than others. We know them well. Micheal Jordan, Kobe Bryant numerous NFL, MLB superstars and don’t get me started on College Football. The point is, the athletes are nothing without a supporting cast around them.

For those who snub their nose at the Cheerlebrity, remember they are people too. Be the bigger person and respect the effort they put into the sport, they deserve it. Most use the title to do good and are role models for our children whether we like it or not. Take the time to explain the life lesson to those around you and build a culture of positivity.

Below is a response to one of the comments from my previous blog post. I think it applies here.

In the business world, we have another word for Cheerlebrities they are sometimes called CEO’s sometimes Managers, sometimes they actually fit into the rank and file. Whatever happens, it’s all ok. Hopefully, they turn into leaders or contributors of some sort. The important thing is to take the attributes of what they do on the mats and be productive in their lives moving forward. Thank you for you contribution to the conversation. I agree, not everything is peaches and cream.  ~ Eric Moran

At the end of the day, the people that matter most in your life will be the ones that help create life long memories. Think about it, QUICK, name the last World Champions in the Large All Girl senior 5 division. Can you do it? Did you have to Google it? How about Large Coed? Senior Medium? Senior Small Coed? (Ok, that one may be easy) but you get my point!

Now, I challenge you to remember your favorite teacher from grade school. Who was your best friend growing up in your neighborhood? Who is your favorite cheer coach? Who is the friend that helped you through one of your most challenging moments in your life? I am assuming you can rattle them off immediately.

The most important people in your life are the ones you surround yourself with day in and day out. They are the ones who will be in your wedding. They will be the ones who you grow up with and share special memories with. They are your crew, not the people on an iPhone screen half way across the US.

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                                  The 2014-2015 Peppermint Rays making lifetime memories

The more we as a community push the issue of  “Unless you become a “Cheerlebrity”… you are Worthless…” we create a dangerous culture for Allstar Cheer. Be the teammate that leaves a positive culture for those to flourish behind you. Leave the legacy you want others to follow!  Make sure you are easily memorable for those in your circle for years to come.

 

If you are in Business…. NEVER hire an Allstar Cheerleader.

In speaking with so many new people recently. I must say, I am never surprised by the things that come out of peoples mouth. In full disclosure, I have been called a funny guy from time to time. I like to joke and have fun with people. Simply put, I like to keep things light and humorous but as we all know sometimes humor can cross the line. I know most people who I chat with are just trying to be funny, but some things just hit home.

A recent conversation I had with a “Business Professional” that started out cordial and fun; ended up taking a bit of a turn after they found out the book I wrote was about a group of  Allstar Cheerleaders. The comment that the “Business Professional” made “Why would you write a book about Cheerleaders they can’t read.” Ha Ha Ha.. The joke was intended to be funny but after the Crickets..my response was a bit awkward in that I responded by saying. “My nine-year-old has read every volume of Harry Potter twice in the past two months.” I think she got my drift. But it got me thinking.

Early in my professional career, I was lucky enough to land with a company called Circuit City. The company is now extinct but was featured in the book Good to Great by Jim Collins the book is a best seller and basically outlines 11 out of 3700 companies that were extremely successful and why. To make it quick, it basically outlines how to get the “Right People on the Bus and then figure out where to drive it.”

While I was at Circuit City I spent a ton of time training on how to direct recruit people to join our team. Part of our job was to go out and identify people who exemplified specific traits. The traits we always looked for while observing people on the job were:

  • Being Coachable– Observe people taking instruction are they modifying their behavior to maximize performance?
  • Resilient– Can you observe the candidate overcoming personal and physical challenges to get the job done.
  • Focus– Do you observe specific behaviors of an individual overcoming repetitive challenging  situations even if they sometimes don’t want to.
  • Passion– Can you feel their excitement in what they are doing.
  • Competitive– Do they stand out, and do they strive to be the best in everything they do.
  • Smart– Do they work hard and do they work smart?
  • Driven- Do they collaborate well with the team and if needed do they take charge to lead and push through.
  • Organized– Can they manage multiple responsibilities in a day and prioritize to accomplish great things.
  • Trusting– Can they be trusted and can they easily build trust in others.
  • Loyal– Do they stick with their team? Do they have each others back?

In a previous post, I outlined the Importance of Strong mentors and Culture  .To summarize, I wrote about the importance of identifying the leaders in the room and working hard to model or benchmark performance around those leaders. Observing so many young athletes over the past 4 years, they have opened my eyes to a promising concept. Capturing all of these gifted and talented people that exemplify every one of the specific words bulleted above should be very exciting to business professionals.

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An Allstar Cheerleaders biggest fear when their time is over as an athlete is, “What they are going to do when the busy schedule and the National and World championships are over?” My advice to my “Business Professional” friend would be to NEVER hire an Allstar Cheerleader. I will hire them all. Then I will take my chances in transitioning all of the traits listed above to the business world and we will see who wins!

 

Setting Aggressive Goals and Team Success…

As adults, we learn the importance of establishing aggressive goals and challenging ourselves. Sometimes this means working with a team, sometimes your goal is an individual one. In youth sports when aggressive goals are achieved, often times they are achieved by a magical chain of events.

In my previous post The Importance of Strong Mentors and Culture I emphasize the importance of having someone successful to look up to. It is important to be able to observe what it takes to be successful. Once you see what it takes, you then need to be able to model the behaviors to achieve success. On a team, everyone’s interpretation of what it takes to succeed will vary. It takes an incredible Coach to set the standard and clarify the different interpretations. The Coach needs to define and model what it is going to take to be successful. In other words, someone needs to set the bar high for you or your team.

As Welcome to Mintland  moves into the early to middle chapters of the book. I try to establish how the team comes together and how they began to bond as a team by establishing trust and emanating kindness as a group. In Youth Sports, talent can only take you so far as an individual. In Allstar Cheerleading individual talent is completely useless without support of a strong team culture. While we always think kids learn from adults many times if you observe a Youth Sports team it will be the other way around.

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As described in the early chapters, you could tell the team bonded quickly with each other. Many of the kids were from different backgrounds, schools, and parts of the city. Some of the kids where older than others, more mature, shy, quiet, spirited, etc.. but once together, they all accepted each other. While it took a while for some to warm up to others, at the end of the day the team learned to trust each other and understand each others capabilities even at a young age.

This came in extra handy as the Coach put together one of the most exciting stunt sequences and pushed this team to the brink. Setting aggressive goals is what makes good teams great. Early on as the team was assembling the stunt, things were not pretty. Many failed attempts and falls resulted, but the team never lost faith in each other and knew they could do it. Once they did it a few times, it was on to mastery. As any incredible coach will tell you, if you demand perfection you just might get it. If you settle for mediocracy that is what you will get.

Once perfection is consistent, your team can go very far in Youth Sports and in life. Are you curious to read just how far this “little team that could” went? Well, I will leave that up to you to research but it was pretty magical. It would have never happened if the Coach did not set an aggressive goal. The magic happens when the team believes in each others ability to achieve success. Have you ever achieved a goal you never thought you would achieve? I would love to hear your story….

 

 

 

 

The Importance of Strong Mentors and Culture

In the first few chapters of Welcome to Mintland,  it was important to share the culture Peppermint was surrounded by. In the first few pages, I share the legacy of the 8 time World Champion Stingray Allstars Orange. In youth sports, it is important to have people to look up to. This Mini team each had their favorite teams in the gym, but the positive culture starts and ends with watching and being surrounded by the Orange team legacy.

The success of Orange has built a culture of keeping your head down, working hard to do your best, staying humble and believing in yourself. The legacy that hovers around the gym is a strong force you can feel. Not only by the current Orange teammates but also the Alumni that enter the building  and follow the team on social media. It helps drive all of the teams in the building. It is why I firmly believe the success of the gym will be driven by building the legacy of not only Orange, but all of the Worlds teams at the Stingray Allstars. Having strong mentors in life is a very powerful force. When you have multiple mentors to look up to and pair that up with an incredible leader or coach, magnificent things can happen. Peppermint was fortunate enough to be surrounded by multiple teams that were lead by fantastic leaders who extracted the most out of their athletes. To build an incredible team at the beginning of a new year, the expectation and bar needs to be set and understood by all.Mintwatching Orange Rays

Earning the right to watch the Stingray Allstars Orange Practice

Peppermint was fortunate enough to be surrounded by multiple teams that were fantastic leaders and mentors, including their own coaching staff. The acceptance of a work hard and “do your best” culture is significant in building powerful relationships and bonds that will last a lifetime. It is why I firmly believe that the relationship between Peppermint and the 2015 World Champion Stingray Allstars Peach was so strong.

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The 2015 Cheersport Champions Stingrays Peppermint and Peach 

 

In my opinion, one of the most important aspects of being successful in life is being surrounded by incredible mentors that have built a strong positive culture. This is one of the first life lessons I wanted to establish in the book.

Over the course of the next few blog posts, I will continue to outline the many life lessons in Welcome to Mintland in sequential order.  How has a positive culture or mentor shaped your life? I would love to hear your thoughts and stories.

The Blessing and the Curse of Social Media in Allstar Cheerleading…

It’s no secret I can be a long-winded person. It’s a blessing and a curse in this day and age. I have made it my mission in life to make sure I never say “it all went by so fast” or “where did the time go.” I am sure I will fail eventually and cave to that phrase, but I will try to take in every moment. It is important to reflect on experiences good and bad. It is what builds character and develops our future. It’s a building block.

One of the main purposes of writing Welcome to Mintland was making sure the kids appreciated this time in their lives. In between practices, school, tumble classes, school projects, parties, and travel. Most of the time they do not get an opportunity to smell the roses. In the era of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat etc.. kids (and adults) are now trained to appreciate moments in the split second they take a look at that picture or meme on their favorite social media account. After that quick instance of gratification, it is off to the next piece of context or photo. There is no time for reflection or appreciation of a job well done. There are some stories that are worth more that the 7/8 of a second we dedicate to viewing our journey.

At the end of the season, one of the observations I made was  that I did not get the sense the team understood what they accomplished. I was literally scared to death that they would take the moment and their journey for granted while chasing the next skill or accomplishing more great things at school or at cheer. I think subliminally, that was why I felt compelled to write this story.

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All Star Cheerleading moves at the speed of Social Media. It is how the entire community communicates. I am as guilty as anybody.  It is efficient and necessary for a worldwide audience to stay connected as closely as we all do. We all must realize there are some stories that deserve more than just a tweet or a snap. This community deserves more than that. I hope more take the time to realize this time in your life will be amazing and not everything in your life should be broken down into 8 counts. Sometimes you need to back up and observe from the judges table and smile down on the performance in front of you, take it all in and build from it.

I would love to hear about your special moments. Feel free to share.

Eric

The Dad who wrote a book about AllStar Cheerleading.

So the inevitable happened. One of my fears going into the Welcome to Mintland project was perception. As selfish as it sounds, I was worried what “my boys” would think after they found out I wrote a book about All Star Cheerleading.

A few of my friends found out about the project and immediately called me on it. A few chuckled and teased me, a few were amazed that I dedicated the time to do it. I expected as much, I mean guys will be guys and it would not be normal if I did not get some form of teasing or ridicule. A funny thing happened when I challenged them to read the book. They actually did. At first they were amazed that is was actually a “real book” with chapters and pictures and not a neat shutterfly picture documentary about a kids team.

One of my more “macho” guy friends actually finished the book in one sitting and came back to me with a completely different demeanor. He actually apologized to me and said “that was an incredible story dude” and said it reminded him of Friday Night Lights but for cheer (maybe a bit of a stretch but. I’ll take the compliment.) I was actually shocked by his attitude. You could tell he actually read the story because he asked about specific people in the book, and went a step further by actually watching one of the teams in the story the 2015 World Champion Peach Rays on YouTube.

He finally got it. It was more than just Pom Poms and sideline cheer. The story finally helped me break through what I was fortunate enough to witness week in and week out. We discussed how cool it was that the teams trained side by side next to World Champion athletes. We also went on to discuss how hard the kids work, and that some may never become a Senior 5 athlete, but they aspire to be the best they can be. Then we began to reminisce about old sports stories about football, baseball and basketball. It was then I knew. I finally won him over for just a moment. He discussed how cool the camaraderie and connections were with the team and how the plot twist in the book was such an amazing experience for the kids.

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He now understood the magnitude of Cheersport, NCA, UCA, Summit and Worlds. He now understands why they are broadcast on CBS Sports and ESPN. In his mind, it is now legit.

The ironic part of this story; one of the reasons for writing this book was overcoming the frustration of trying to properly articulate how incredible the teams, coaches and the sport of All Star Cheerleading is. After winning over one of “my boys” I am glad I accepted the challenge.  I will chalk it up as a success at this point.

 

 

 

My first venture as an author.

When you set your path in life. You would like to think you have a vision. Ultimately, your vision will guide you to your ultimate destination. I clearly have a blurry vision, but an exciting one. The most exciting piece of dedicating time to your children is that you get to live through their eyes, but with more experience. I have had the opportunity of a lifetime over the last 12 months to do just that. One of the many gifts that have emerged from this time is a very unexpected project.

I never thought of myself as a writer. If I would ever think of writing something, I would guess it would be about team culture or success of sales teams or advertising. Never in a million years would I ever dream I would write about an experience I had with a group of AllStar Cheerleaders.

I have been surrounded by very gifted writers for a very long time. Working at USA TODAY, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Creative Loafing in Atlanta there is no shortage of some of the best writers in the world. One thing I noticed with all of them is that they did their best work when they were inspired or passionate about something. Almost touched by a superior being. I guess that is what happened when I sat down to write about Welcome to MintLand. When you watch something magical happen before your eyes that can be perceived like an average experience to the innocent bystander, you feel compelled to tell the story. I simply told the story. This story needed to be told, if not for anyone but the team. I was also exhausted from trying to explain the exhilaration of competitive cheer to everyone. You just have to experience it. This was an opportunity to do so. To get a glimpse of the magic that is Welcome to Mintland you can view the book trailer below.

 

The book has been released for only a few weeks but I get asked a two main questions. 1.How did you have time to do this? The answer, I made time for this. 2. Why did you write this book?  This is where the passion comes in.

Welcome to Mintland is about Allstar Cheer ,but the story is much more than that. This story is a group of 6,7,8-year-old kids that became an unstoppable force founded by love and belief in each other. This is NOT a story of some incredible undefeated season. It is a story about what you can accomplish given challenges in the road. It is about recalibrating your vision to a better goal. This team supported everyone along the way including other teams. No one ever felt better than each other. This book is about the word “team” and the power of positivity and belief in others. It’s about a team that completely believed in each other and knew no boundaries to how far they could go as a group.

The book also epitomizes the importance of a strong leader who took them to new heights both as a team and as people. The coaching staff saw the determination, work ethic and heart in this team and it was infectious.

I had two goals in writing this book.

1. When people read this book I want them to take a piece of the culture and share it. Build upon this experience with their new teams, friends, colleges and parents. This spirit which is Mintland should become infectious.

2. When this team grows up and begins their larger journey in life, I want them to reflect on this time and remember the importance of surrounding yourself with incredible people, belief in others, hard work and faith. It will be handy in life.

There are too many life lessons to share, which are outlined in the book. Although the book is about Allstar Cheer they can be applied to any sport and in life. I hope you enjoy the book, and would love to know what you think.

Cheers,

Eric

 

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Overcoming the fear of failure and accepting accountability…..

failure-300x243In previous posts I have eluded to the scary part about joining a startup company. Playing entrepreneur is one thing,  jumping in head first and going all in is completely another. Knowing the failure rate of an early stage startup is something a person needs to understand before making this jump. Many cities have a challenge finding good talent in the startup world. Recently the CEO of Rivalry Jon Birdsong eloquently described the situation in Atlanta HERE. With the mix of tight funding, a talent crunch for tech and environment of the unknown makes for a serious uphill battle.

Understanding the risks is one part of the equation. Accepting accountability for the success or failure of your product or efforts is also part of the deal. What happens when you start hearing about the realities of your baby (product). Failing Fast is important and shifting the direction of your concept is vital to the survival of the company. Even if that means the demise of a role within the company. Typically, the person on the front lines gathering intel and feedback from customers is typically the person who can figure out the direction of the product the best. Most of the time this should be the CEO or Biz Dev person.

When your company feels it is ready to take the product to market, do so aggressively do not be passive. Get the product in the hands of everyone that will use it. There will be many opportunities for feedback either from what customers tell you or more importantly what they don’t tell you.  The devil is always in the details. If you run into to many barriers of entry it may be time to go back to the drawing board. One major signal is a pricing objection. If you are getting in front of a bunch of people and never get a price objection, that is a strong signal that you need to pivot .

Let me elaborate, when you are consistently arriving at the price negotiation stage with your customers it means you may be on to something.  If you are not getting here this means the customer does not see enough value in what you bring to the table or they have a similar solution that they do not see the value in changing from. Overcoming objections and learning from them is one thing. At some point, the product needs to sell itself. Keep in mind that potential customers are eager to get to the price stage if they want the product. It is typically the only stage in which they have control of the situation it is a very important stage that will tell you a lot.

Accepting accountability in any organization is a big part of personal and professional growth. With limited seed funding available, that may mean making some tough choices as development costs will take priority over everything else, as they should! If you do not fit in to developing a better product (technically) for the customer, this may mean you need to step away or your position will be eliminated. This is a reality, as it should be in any position in a startup or in the corporate world.  For many people this is a tough pill to swallow. I have struggled with this portion for years. For me, if you are stagnating at a cube in a corporate environment and not adding any value collecting a pay check I would challenge you to step up.

This means many things for many people but you will know your boundaries, try to cross them. Ask a question in a meeting, take on that new challenge that you know you could do but don’t think you will be called upon. Do Something! If you fail, good for you. Learn, Grow and know that you tried to make a difference. You will be much better for it, trust me I fail a lot.

What else is involved with the fear of failure? What are some of the factors that are in play? How much risk is too much risk? How do you hedge the risks you take? I would love to hear from you.

Cheers,

Eric