The Challenge of Explaining Allstar Cheerleading

One of the biggest challenges as a parent or athlete is explaining the sport of Allstar Cheer.

After trying for many years to articulate what these kids do on a daily basis. I figured it would be better to capture the experience.

I was fortunate enough to follow the amazing Stingray Allstars Black during their journey at the Cheersport Nationals in Atlanta back in February. This is a raw uncut version of their quest to earn a summit bid.

If you have ever struggled to explain or properly articulate what parents and athletes experience at Cheersport, this will be a great video to share. If you have never been. Take a look at this post about surviving Cheersport

Out of respect of the program and team, I waited until after Summit to release as the full routine was in the documentary.

I hope you enjoy “Chasing Destiny”

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The person that does not belong on the Cheer Team…..

You know…. there is always one. In the beginning of a cheer season. There is always excitement, the unknown, pieces of a puzzle that have yet to fit. Then it begins. The first practice. Whispers start, the sizing up begins. Who does not belong? Who is the kid that should be on a higher level team? Who is the kid who had no business being on the team in the first place. The athlete that has the mental block or ” lost his/her tumbling”?  Who is the athlete that just is not mature enough to handle the pressure? Do you hear it? Sure you do….

Months go by, and things start to take shape.  The team is forming, bonds and stunt groups are starting to click. Personalities are complimenting each other. The athlete that “a few” said was not mature enough, is looking up to the athlete that was left behind from the successful team from the previous year. The athlete that is grooming their tumbling is learning from the athlete that should have been put on that “higher level team”. They are beginning to grow and learn from each other, but you still hear the whispers”. Do you hear it? There is still one, maybe two or at worst more than two. Why are they still here? How are you going to be successful with them in the mix?

Competition season starts and the athletes that did not have the proper tumbling are mentally beating themselves up everyday by trying to keep up with the team. They are putting in extra hours pushing through the mental struggle they have no control over. They do not understand why they can’t yet push through this struggle. The parents of said athletes stay silent in the corner. Praying they can keep up, fighting through the daily struggle of trying to make sure their athlete feels worthy of being on that team. The athletes that have their tumbling down cold are encouraging the athletes every chance they get. Screaming encouragement and comforting them when there is a setback. The coaches are working on drills every practice to instill confidence and developing skills. the team is growing! Yet, it is still there, do you hear it? Maybe you can see it. Maybe the notion still whispers in your ear. I still can’t believe it, but they are still here, on the team.

We are heading into the final stretch. The practices intensify. The superlatives of every athlete are maxed to form the identity of this team. Maybe at this stage you are undefeated, maybe you have not won a competition all season. The results at this stage seem irrelevant. Especially, to the one that does not belong on the team. Obviously, they simply do not get it. Win or lose, you are still going to hear it. Do you hear it?

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The time has come, it’s the final time on the mat together. The team has grown together and formed an unspeakable bond. The backspot that did not have her tumbling all season, saved that elite stunt and fought her heart out to keep that flyer in the air all season, never dropped once. The superstar tumbler that you learned should have been on a higher level team, sometimes struggled to keep her group in the air. She mentored the younger and less experienced athletes and helped them realize and capitalize on the moment. She showed them composure and confidence. She built them up with just her presence alone. The flyer that came out of no where from another gym, fit into the team like a glove and complimented everyone in her group. She is now one of us.   The team has come together like an amazing jazz ensemble.

It’s all over now and maybe the journey has ended at the Summit or Worlds. Maybe it ended, without a win at all. What ever the outcome there is no doubt it will end with tears of joy. The battles, struggles and sacrifice will always play and important part in your life whether you believe it or not. The teammates you shared this journey with are a part of your make up, forever.

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Upon reflection, there was that one element that held the team back from absolute greatness. Even at the end of the season, this person still did not get it. It was the one piece of the puzzle that never seemed to fit in. The continuous negative energy that weighed over the team the entire season. The continuous chirping and jockeying for position. The person that could not see the amazing miracle of growth and journey that will bond this team forever not realizing what was happening right in front of them.

You know the person I am talking about. When you think of a successful season, I hope you think of an experience that is magical, all the way up and down the spectrum. The athletes, coaches and parents. There is one that did not belong for reasons they never figured out.

So who is it do you ask? Who is the person that does not belong on the Allstar Cheerleading team? If you are a parent reading this right now.  I hope and pray that it is not YOU…..your team needs every ounce of your support. To be a complete magical season. Coaches, Athletes and Parents all have to come together as one. Don’t be the person that casts a shadow on a magical season, as parents it is up to you to lift up and lift all.

Welcome to Mintland Podcast- The Final Chapter

With this being the final chapter in the Welcome to Mintland podcast, I wanted to do something a little special. I was lucky enough to be joined by Wendy McConnell and Scott East of the 2015 World Champion Peach Rays.

Please listen in, as the coaches share their memories of the Peach Rays / Peppermint Rays special season and bond the two teams shared. It was certainly a special moment that everyone will remember for years to come.

I also share another exciting announcement within the podcast. You may have noticed it already. If you look hard enough you may be able to find the little secret I share about the book.

What started out as a hobby to share the story with younger listeners, has turned into such an amazing experience reliving and expanding on this fun story. I certainly appreciate all of the listeners that have invested their time to listen in and I hope you enjoy the story and carry on the spirit of this team through all your life journeys.

Enjoy the final Chapter The Road to Summit below.

http://welcome-to-mintland.madewithopinion.com/road-to-summit-chapter-12/#

Dear Mean Allstar Cheerleading Coach,

I started with you when I was a tiny/mini cheerleader. I was mesmerized by watching the big kids. I wanted to be like them and win a medal.

When we started practicing I was a little taken aback. I did not know it at the time, but our team was a mess. We forged on over the course of many months. Through dedication, tons of coaching, fighting through immeasurable amounts of frustration we began to come together. You believed in me and told me I could get that forward roll. Once I perfected that, you said I could get my cartwheel, I did. Then I moved on to my back walk over. I did it, but it was never perfect, You always coached me every inch of the way. Celebrating little victories, but making sure my arms were straight and that I was always on count. Why are you so mean?

It’s almost comp season we are all doing ok, but you seem to be insisting that we become better. Why are you so loud? Why do you insist on perfection? We are only kids. My parents keep telling me you are coaching, but I think otherwise. Why are you so mean?

Competition season is almost over we have quite a few medals and a few jackets. I can only focus on the here and now but I notice our team is becoming pretty good. You don’t tell us that very often in my opinion, and you are still pushing us to be better. Why are you so mean?

It’s the last performance of the season. We want to make you proud. I look down and notice you are crying. I am not sure why you are crying, but I have taken your guidance all year. We do our best again. We leave the mats and I am worried you will be loud again, but your not. You tell us how proud you are of us and our growth over the entire season. We end up winning the competition again. You insist we keep working and striving to be better. Why are you so mean?

Fast Forward…  

I have now moved on to youth and junior teams. While you are no longer my coach anymore, I still see you all the time and you always make time for me and give me a hug. I am working on harder skills now, but the one thing that has never changed is your continuous voice in my ear making sure my form is perfect and that I am on count. I share this drive for perfection and continuous high expectations with my teammates. They buy into my passion for excellence and many ask where I got it from. I am not quite sure, but I think it came from that mean coach I used to have.

We are prepping for Summit. You are still not my coach but still watch me and are invested in me. You catch me slacking off in practice from across the gym. I am not giving it my all. You take time out of your busy day to call me out for it. Literally, across the gym in front of everybody. Why are you so mean?

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Fast Forward…

Life is becoming a little more challenging now. I have been on every level team on my journey from Level 1 to Level 5. I have worked hard and fought through peaks and valleys to make my dream team. I am juggling a very rough school schedule, practice, tumble classes, I come in early and stay late with my stunt group.

I have to maintain exceptional grades to earn the right to follow my passion to cheer. In the middle of all of this, I bump into you rushing to practice. You notice I seem a little overwhelmed. You take a moment to ask if I am ok? You already know the answer. You let me vent and share my frustrations and then you look me in the eye and tell me that you know I can push through this challenging time. Right on cue, as expected, you don’t throw me a pity party and you tell me to suck it up and push through and give it your best. Why are you still so mean?

 

Fast Forward…

It’s finally over. The final award ceremony has concluded. It’s time to make some exciting but challenging life decisions. It is now time to decide how I am going to spend the next four years of my life. When I make my decision and my announcement. I notice you are there right by my side. You are crying again, and I am not sure why. I still remember you yelling at me to make sure my arms were straight and my toes were pointed. You never gave up on me and insisted I always do my best.

I share that I ended up in the top 10 percent of my graduating class. My parents are trying to figure out how to get rid of all the medals jackets and accolades I have earned under your tutelage. You look at me with tears in your eyes and make me promise I will continue to work my heart out.

I am little older and wiser now. I have the opportunity to look back upon my amazing journey. I smile at the thought of your agonizing task of coaching 18 tiny and mini cheerleaders. I honestly can’t believe you put that much passion into us. I remember you calling me out when I was not doing my best. I remember the time you took in the hallway to make sure I was ok and you cared enough to share that you believed in me and knew I could push through.

After all these years, I think I get it now. I realize your love for me and finally know what you MEAN.

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The episode you have all been waiting for!

Well gang, it’s ready. Chapter 10  The Peppermint Plot Twist. The podcast of the chapter that answers all the questions people have about the magical allstar season we have come to love.

How did a mini team end up at Summit?

Was this REALLY a mini team?

How did this all happen? Why did it happen?

Did the parents know this was going to happen? What was the reaction when you heard the news?

How does a young team handle the situation of hitting on both days of a competition but coming up short and not winning at NCA?

As a parent, how do you handle that situation with a 6-year-old?

What was the reaction of the team when they learned what they were going to attempt?

It’s all here in Chapter 10! Complete with an interview with Blair Green a parent of one of the Peppermints on the team and my daughter Kaitlyn who was a member of the Minnie Mints and Mickey.

I hope you enjoy and please take a minute to give the podcast a review in iTunes. I would greatly appreciate it.

Listen to the Chapter 10 Podcast HERE

If you would like to listen to the podcast on YouTube you can listen HERE

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In Allstar Cheer your dreams may not be your destiny…

In the seemingly endless journey of Allstar cheer, as an athlete, there is only one goal. The goal is  2:30 of constant perfection. Not just you, the entire team. All 10 to 36 athletes in unison to be perfect, over and over again. There is an ebb and a flow. There is a time of struggle and a time to peak. Some teams hit stride early and ride a wave of certain perfection all year round. Some will peak at the very end. Some won’t peak at all.

During this journey, it is easy to lose sight of lessons you are learning along the way. You become consumed on the chase for perfection. The race to learn that next tumbling skill, the continuous work needed to take that elite stunt to new scoring heights. The concentration needed to make sure every teammate is dialed in to perform as one to astound the judges week in and week out.  All to achieve your dreams of winning that Cheersport National Championship, That elusive NCA Jacket, or to reach the pinnacle of winning that Summit or Worlds ring.

When it is all over, you may look around and wonder what just happened. I am entering college or the next phase in my life. Nobody cares that I can do a standing full. Nobody cares that I have dedicated my life to a team and a coach to chase one dream. No one cares that I am a World Champion. You may think, can’t I just fast forward through life? College is hard, how am I going to do this? The person I interviewed to get this job has no idea what is involved in learning a whip double.

It is at that point you may ask yourself “Why did I focus all my dreams on Cheer?” It is at this very moment I beg of you to consider that your dreams may not be your destiny at this stage in your life. It took you at least 8 to 13 years to learn and master every skill you have competed with. Why do you think the next stage in life will fall into your lap without working as hard as you have at Allstar Cheer? Every athlete will go through a valley of doubt and sadness in missing the one thing they loved. There will be an emptiness inside, as you miss the competition, the fight, and the quest.

It is at this time I hope you look back at the 8 to 13 years of hard work and think really hard about how you got to where you are in the sport you love. The dedication, the resilience, toughness, the loyalty the work ethic. The mental fortitude to never stop and to never give up… ever. To be coachable and to learn quickly and adapt when things aren’t going your way. When you need help, you are able to look towards a leader or more importantly be a leader for a person who needs you. It all matters, all of it. Teamwork is essential in life it is now time to apply what you learned.

The astounding thing that you may not get for a while is that the coaches you respected and idolized care more about the traits I mentioned above than your whip double. What the coaches truly hope you realize, is that in 5-10 years down the road when you finally find YOUR DESTINY you recognize that you have the life skills to achieve your dreams.

It will take a while, but you will get it. You just need to apply the important skills you learned along the way and apply them differently. Kinda like your first forward roll, back walk over or cartwheel. Sometimes the best gifts in life are achieved once you realize your Dreams may not be your destiny.  There is always something bigger on the horizon for you!

This post inspired by the Chapter 9 of the Podcast of Welcome to Mintland 

The Most Painful Gift is a Summit Loss…

There is nothing more painful than hitting your routine at Summit and not advancing or making it to day two, hitting and losing. It will happen to almost every team that sets foot in the ESPN WWOS. Specifically, about 95% of the teams that are fortunate enough to earn a bid will not get the ring.

As I reflect on the 2017 season, it is a bittersweet moment. It happened again, we competed, hit zero both days and lost…. this will be the third time. It will probably happen over and over again if we are lucky enough to make it back. I use the term “WE” on purpose. As you know, your entire village is part of a trip to Summit. The coaches, the athletes, the parents. The cycle of emotions after you come back from Summit and lose goes something like this. exhaustion, anger, guilt, reflection on what went wrong. After you make it through all of those emotions the final and most important stage

You begin to smile, you begin to understand the magnitude of what you just went through with your entire squad. After you make it through all of those emotions the final and most important stage hit you like a ton of bricks. The inevitable question. Was it all worth it?

Typically, if you are like me, it’s the third day. I start looking at all the amazing photos of the weekend. The smiles, the anticipation, the preparation, the tension the amazing time with friends. The pain, the tears …I review it all.

Then there is that moment when you find a social media post from a few years back that puts everything into perspective. You were new to cheer, maybe a little less jaded, some may say a little nieve. I would say it summed up the biggest gift you can get from a Summit loss. It goes a little something like this……

Pardon me capturing this moment…..

The most treasured gifts one can receive in life are lifetime memories. Sometimes these are good memories, sometimes bad. As we got home from Orlando last night. As we always do, Kaitlyn and I snuggled and we talked about her 2nd place finish at The Summit.

While she was disappointed in not winning. I explained to her that as she goes through life this experience is a gift that she will be able to hold in her heart forever. As a 7-year-old she did not exactly understand what I meant.

I proceeded to tell her that what their team accomplished will never be taken away. She would be able to take this experience with her for the rest of her life and share the incredible journey with others. “It is a gift”.

As we walked through the entire journey. I also shared that Coach Ashley believing in them and giving them this incredible opportunity is something she should never forget. I also told her that the team overcame so many things to get as far as they did. She seemed perplexed. “What did we overcome? We were only doing our routine as we always do.” I finally told her that many people did not think they would do as well as they did. I finally was able to put into perspective exactly what they accomplished.

1.People stated that Peppermint was “too small” to compete in the Youth division. People said there was no way this team would be able to compete one time and get a bid, it was too much of a long shot. They should stay the course and go for the Triple Crown points race.

2. Some people said ” They would never give a Mini team a ” Youth Level at-large bid to the Summit.” They were right, your team did NOT get an at-large bid. They were awarded a “Full Paid bid instead”

3. People were nervous when Peppermint changed the routine they had all season. I was a risky change going into Summit. It was a huge challenge and at times did not look so good in practice. They said maybe it was a mistake to change it. You hit it flawlessly both days in competition.

4. People said there would be no way they would let a Mini team move on to day 2 at the Summit in the Youth Division. You made it to Day 2 Final and Finished in Second Place in the Nation in the Youth Division.

Kaitlyn then asked ” Why did our coaches not tell us all this stuff?” I responded well Kaitlyn that is the the Gift that I was referring to. Coach Ashley, Kelsey and Rupert believed in you so much that they knew you could do it all along without any doubt! That is the true gift! Coach Ashley told you all year you were the best Mini Team in the world all year and she was right….hold that in your heart forever. #miraclemints

This post was the inspiration for the book Welcome to Mintland. It is featured on the Welcome to Mintland Facebook page HERE.