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.

 

 

The Announcement that Changed Cheer Forever.

This article appears in the January 2017 edition of Cheer.Dance.Lyfe magazine. To get a copy of the magazine click HERE.

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On Tuesday, December 6th 2016 The cheer universe was changed forever. The announcement that Cheerleading has finally been validated and recognized as a true Olympic Sport finally was announced. This was a huge announcement for the world of cheerleading.

The International Cheer Union (ICU) was granted provisional International Olympic Committee recognition for a period of three years by the Executive Board. More importantly, if everything goes well, competitive cheerleading can now be included in the upcoming Olympic programs. No longer will you have to defend the sport we all love as a “real sport”.

Founded in 2004 and headquartered in the United States, the International Cheer Union began its journey to be recognized six years ago when it first applied to the International Olympic Committee. The ICU's mission is to positively advance cheerleading throughout the world. The organization has steadily built its membership and now has 110 National Cheer Federation members.

Via the Press Release of the announcement:

"The IOC's actions have created a monumental milestone for cheerleading. We are truly honored to receive this recognition by the Executive Board of the IOC," said Jeff Webb, President of the International Cheer Union. "This decision will greatly assist us as we strive to create opportunities for healthy participation and competition for millions of Cheer athletes worldwide."

Many questions quickly arose, as this decision caught many off guard. The initial US news reports failed miserably in properly reporting that competitive Cheer that had just been validated as a sport. The old perceptions of Cheerleading prevailed and the news media did not properly capture the essence of competitive cheer. The competitive cheer community quickly responded. You could feel the collective heads raise and the welling up in pride from the cheer community around the world. No one has to argue anymore, Cheer is now a sport.

 

Confusion and excitement quickly set in within the Cheerleading community as well. The many variations of competitive cheer began to ask questions. What happens now? How is this going to work? Is this going to change Worlds as we know it? How can I get involved to be an Olympic Champion one day?  

 

I visited The Stingray Allstars in Marietta, Georgia to get some insight from some of the Youth and Junior teams who are now in the middle of their competition season. A few had heard of the huge announcement, most had not. The look on the faces of the athletes once they learned they could potentially be in the Olympic Games someday was priceless. Many dropped the names of the famous athletes of the recently completed 2016 Rio Summer games. The teams shared names like

Simone Biles, Ali Raisman the Final 5, Michael Phelps and other athletes were shared. Needless to say the Allstar Cheerleading gym was buzzing with excitement of the news.

The Stingray Allstars Red Rays with Torch from the 2012 London Olympic Games
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Many in America and abroad are familiar with the Allstar format of Worlds and Summit. Olympic Cheer will be represented by the International Cheer Union. The ICU federation is based in America but will represent teams from all over the world.  

 

As a father with two daughters who has defended the authenticity of this sport vehemently, I decided to find out how all this works in hopes to educate all involved. I was fortunate enough to speak with some incredible athletes that have already represented The US National Team.

 

Below is a question and answer from my interview with Patrick and Julia Miller who have represented the US National Team. The couple has represented our country over the past few years and have been instrumental in paving the way for US National athletes for years to come. I wanted to share couples experience in hopes to share as much of the potential Olympic cheer experience as possible.
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Julia Miller- USA Cheer  2014-2016

Q: What was the cheerleading path that led you to compete on the US National Team ?

A: “ When I was younger I was a competitive gymnast for 13 years and always had a passion to compete. In college, I cheered at UCF.  While cheering in college and attending events such as the NCA and UCA College nationals. I learned about the US National Team. I tried out and made the Co-Ed squad and was on The team from 2014-15-16.”

 

Q: “ What was it like to represent USA Cheer at the ICU Worlds?

A: “It was one of the most incredible experiences in my life. It was so amazing to be surrounded by such amazing talent from all over the world. Each of the teams work so hard and are so passionate about what they do.”

 

Q: Many people will know about the talent from the US National Team. What are some of the International teams we should keep our eye on?

A: “Great question! There are so many incredible teams from around the world. With the popularity of Cheer growing at an amazing pace, the teams are improving all the time. If you are a young athlete you should certainly be keeping you eye on Team Norway, Team Netherlands, Team UK and Team Canada. There are so many teams to name. The talent is absolutely amazing around the world.”

 

Q: What does the US National Team tryout process look like?

A: “The process has changed recently and you can find that information on the US National cheer website. Previously, tryouts were held the day after the UCA College Nationals. You have to be ready to go immediately. It is important to be a well-rounded athlete and strong in all facets of cheer. You only get one shot to try a skill in tryouts. You either hit it or you don’t. The coaches will ask you to complete a stunt or tumbling pass. If you can’t do it the first time, they move on to the next. You have to be poised and ready. You are competing against the best athletes in the nation from many different disciplines.”
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Patrick Miller- USA Cheer  2010- 2016

 

Q:  What was the cheerleading path that led you to compete on the US National Team?

 

A: “In high school, I began playing football, but started Cheerleading in the 10th grade. I went on to Cheer for the University of Kentucky for one year and then transferred to cheer at the University of Alabama for four years. I tried out for the US National team six years ago and fell in love with it, and have been doing it ever since.”

 

Q: You have been on The US National Team for six years. What would be you advice to up and coming Cheerleaders who have a dream to compete on the USA Cheer?

A: “The most important aspect of cheering for The US National team as Julia mentioned,  is being a well-rounded athlete. While many may focus on being an exceptional tumbler or on stunting, it is very important to be exceptional in both. You have to be able to pick up things quickly as practice time is very limited. The competition is incredible and the emphasis on assembling the best routine in the world is imperative.”

 

Q: You mention limited practice time. Most reading this will be familiar with the Allstar gym practice structure. How exactly does that work?  I imagine you have athletes represented from all over the United States. How does the US National team practice?

A: “Many of us are already practicing on a daily basis with our respective teams in college. We actually will share ideas in the team GroupMe. The coaches will send out concepts they are thinking about or asking us to perfect. The coaches spend months coordinating flights and practice facilities for the team. We will all share our ideas and work to perfect them multiple hours in the gym during the week. Once we get closer to the ICU Worlds, the entire team assembles two weeks before and works to perfect the routine. It is an extremely grueling and exhausting process, but that is what it takes to create one of the most competitive routines in the world.”

 

  1. What is an international team other than the US National team that has impressed you?

A: “All of the team's Julia mentioned earlier are amazing. The group that always impresses me is Team Chinese/Taipei. The coed routine they assembled that won them the Gold a few years back was absolutely mind blowing. I also love watching Team Thailand they continue to amaze the world with their incredible stunts and pyramids. I look forward to watching them year in and year out.”

2016 USA Cheer  Coed Premier

As more information about this announcement emerges one thing is for sure. The announcement that Cheerleading is now recognized as an official Olympic sport has changed cheer forever. The announcement will raise the bar for every aspiring athlete who dares to dream big to be an Olympic champion. We can now close the book on the debate of the sport being valid. Although we are not naive enough to believe there will not be skeptics, we can now use our athleticism, work ethic, and execution to continue to prove the doubters wrong.  

 

Cheerleading is an Olympic Sport – Now What?

Today the Cheer world received exciting news that it has been approved by the IOC to be included as an official Olympic Sport. You can view the official announcement here. What exactly does this mean? For the immediate future it means that ICU will receive funding for further development. Cheer is expected to be fully approved as an Olympic sport within 3 years. After that, the sport can be included in the Olympic Games. Will this happen in time for Tokyo 2020 ? Probably not. Might it happen in time for the potential bid cities that are applying for the Summer Games in 2024? (Los Angeles, Paris, Budapest) maybe!

You may have heard of the term the ICU ( International Cheer Union) it represents 110 member nations around the world. It is based in Memphis, TN the same city as one of your favorite cheer companies. The governing body is also been driven by a name in cheer you will recognize ( pstt it’s Varsity). If you are interested in learning what the Olympic cheer world will look like, I would invite you to visit the ICU site here. Notice many of the divisions look very similar to the current Allstar divisions. All of this is very exciting and the evolution of the sport will continue to evolve and grow.

PHOTO OF THE ICU WORLDS

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What does this mean for the average Allstar Cheerleader (Club Cheer as it is commonly referred outside the states)? Not much at this time. There will be quite a bit of work that needs to be done until we finally see the sport included in an Olympic program. The exciting news is that the dream is now alive for many young athletes who have sacrificed to be at the top of their game. There will be a new generation of athletes that will have a new vision. To not only be a World champion but also be a potential Olympic Champion!

If you do the math, if you have a tiny, mini or even a young youth athlete they could potentially be in an Olympic Games representing their country. Team USA along with tons of other countries currently have teams that compete on the international scale. They get some recognition now, but it will only escalate as awareness will now climb to new levels. On the worldwide scale if you search for the international teams you will find some absolutely mind blowing routines.

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Keep in mind the best of the best will be sought out to represent each country. The ICU worlds will be held in Orlando this year in April 2017 you can view the site for the Championships HERE.

The most common question that I have heard is, “Will this replace the Worlds that we all know and love?” The answer is no. Keep in mind Allstar Cheer is a business model. Similar to travel baseball, volleyball, soccer etc.. they are club sports. Allstar cheer will always have its own World Championship / Summit. Olympic Cheer will have teams represented from each of the ICU disciplines (which you can view on their site).

Could this affect my Allstar team in the future? Most likely not, unless you have an exceptional athlete that has made the Team USA, UK, etc… Keep in mind there is already a Team USA  UK  etc..and there has been one for years.

Today’s news of Cheerleading becoming an Olympic sport is extremely exciting, but keep in mind, it will not change much in the near future. To think that one of the children on our favorite tiny, mini or youth teams could potentially be in an Olympic games is pretty cool. The most exciting take away from this is that we can all feel validated that Cheerleading is now considered an Olympic Sport. We will now get the opportunity to educate others on how exciting and powerful our sport can be and we no longer have to defend to athletic prowess our teams have. Hold your head high, work your tail off and you could potentially be an Olympic Champion. HOW DOES THAT SOUND!!

 

 

 

The Stingray Allstars- 15 Year Tribute Video

When you step back and think of the thousands of lives The Stingray Allstars  program has touched over the past 15 years, it can be overwhelming. What started out as a vision, has turned into an amazing culture that feeds off of love, hard work, dedication, sacrifice, but most important family.

While it is true, the program has been blessed with amazing success on the mats. From top to bottom,  no matter the age group or level, the amazing leadership within the walls of Stingrays sets a tone for our athletes from tiny all the way through our worlds teams. It begins and ends with the leadership we are blessed with.

The coaches are too humble to take recognition and will pass the success on to the athletes and families. Out of respect for the coaches and entire staff, I will not single you out, but we thank you and appreciate everything you do for our children. The coaching and support staff of the gym sets an undeniable tone and an expectation to do your best at all times and do it with class. This expectation defines the Stingray culture and builds normal athletes into extraordinary young men and women. It makes our little gym in Marietta, Ga truly “One of a Kind”

While it is simply impossible to capture 15 years of amazing in 4:54 secs. I hope you enjoy the hype video. Let’s have a great year and may we always keep the Stingray culture alive. Here’s to the next 15 years. You may want to turn this video up!

I present the Stingray Allstars 15 Year Tribute Video

Welcome to MintLand Review- From Dana Burkey

Hey everyone! Welcome to Mintland is officially one year old this week!!! As I reflect on the growth of the mini team that could, I can only smile as it has been quite a journey. This morning when I woke up, I noticed a tweet from author Dana Burkey. To my surprise, she did a review of Welcome to Mintland and did a great job summarizing the essence of the book. I was honored she took the time to read it, and floored that she completed a review. I know many of the Mint alumni are going to love seeing this review.

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Some of you may have heard about Dana’s amazing fiction series about the Allstar Cheerleading team TNT Force Cheer. The first book Learning to Fly is a fantastic read and as a father of a daughter who loves to read, I can tell you she absolutely loved it! I encourage everyone to check out the series. The second book is Reaching the Summit  she also has two more books Center Stage and Top of the Worlds to round out the series.

This series an extremely fun read for fans of Allstar Cheer. You can view the entire series along with her other great works HERE .

We all know that Allstar Cheerleaders don’t like to read. Remember that quote? If you don’t I can  refresh your memory by having you read  THIS

Here is the Welcome to Mintland Review from Author Dana Burkey!

Thanks Again Dana!!!