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.

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One Backspot and One Base- Ready to Fly!

It was an exciting night at the Stingray Allstars in Marietta Wednesday evening. The gym hosted a special ceremony for two of their student athletes from the 2018 Stingray Allstars Orange. Gillian Scott and Raegan Dover signed their Division 1 NCATA National Letters of Commitment surrounded by their parents, teammates and coaches.

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I had an opportunity to visit with both the amazing student athletes to learn a little about their exciting news, future plans and how they plan to apply the skills they have learned as athletes into their college careers as student athletes.

Gillian Scott

Gillian has cheered at the Stingray Allstars for 7 years. She will be attending Quinnipiac University after this season. Gillian will be 1 of 60 accepted to the highly competitive 6 year Health Science and Doctorate of Physical Therapy program for Fall 2018 AND she gave her verbal commitment to Quinnipiac’s Acrobatics & Tumbling Team!

A bit about Gillian

Senior year in High School currently dual enrolled at Kennesaw State University
Received from Kennesaw State University – Sigma Alpha Pi Honor Society Invitation
National Society of Leadership and Success, All Majors – Red and Black Cords

Stingrays Teams

  • Green Rays 2 years
  • Slate Rays 1 yr
  • Orange Rays 4 yrs

Who was your role model in cheer growing up?

“Definitely Angel Rice and Kiara Nowlin they both pushed me and inspired me to be where I am today.”

Who is your role model in life?

“Both my parents are incredible role models, but I would have to say my brother Brandon. He has inspired me in life like no other. He provided me a perspective that no matter what obstacle is in my way, I can persevere and make it through anything. His spirit continues to carry me through.”

Career Goals

“I would like to specialize in Sports Medicine and really take a holistic approach to physical therapy. I want to be very approachable and help as many people as I can in the future with unique and customized methods to fit the individual. “23468372_10212735279150083_2114195959_o

Raegan Dover

This is Raegans first year at the Stingray Allstars. Prior to joining Orange she cheered at Georgia Allstars and Twisters. After this season Raegan will be attending Baylor University and will enroll in the Physical Therapy program at the University. She will also be competing on the Acrobatics and Tumbling team at Baylor.

A bit about Raegan

Prior to cheering she was a gymnastics athlete and converted over. She is currently attending High School at South Forsyth.

Stingrays Teams

First year on Stingrays Orange

Who was your role model in Cheer?

“I really looked up to Shayla Moore. She really helped me make the transition from gymnastics to cheer. She is such an amazing athlete.”

Who is your Role Model in life?

“My parents have been great. I especially look up to my Dad. He has always been a great role model for me.”

Career Goals

“I am really looking forward to a career in physical therapy. I am hoping to apply the work ethic and persistence I have learned as an athlete and apply it in school and in my career.”

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We wish these amazing athletes all the success on the mats this season and in future. Continue to follow your dreams and continue to CRUSH!

 

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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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 

What to tell your Allstar Cheerleader after this election.

As parents, we have an incredible responsibility. This past election has taken a toll on many. Our children are watching. They have questions. We as parents have a responsibility to educate our children about the incredible freedoms we enjoy and privileged to have.

The morning after the election people were shocked, saddened, blindsided, overjoyed, validated and scared and paralyzed with fear. Many did not know how to react. Not many saw this coming. No matter where you stood in this election, we did our best to educate our children on the values each of us hold dear to our hearts. Increasingly, those values are vastly different, yet all important. During all of this,lessons were learned.

Many of our children went to bed with an idea of what was going to happen that night. Many woke up with a completely different perspective of how the world just changed. Some feel it is good, some felt is was bad. As we took to social media trying to make sense of everything, people vented, compassion ensued, humility was thrown out the window. Over the top paralyzing posts of hate littered the timelines along with inspiring words of hope and positivity. One question continued to turn up as I thumbed through my feeds.

“What am I supposed to tell my children in the morning?”

No matter where you stand with this past election, I hope we can agree that both candidates were very flawed. We as parents owe it to our children to give them an honest overview of each candidate (if, and only if they ask). With the varying ages, this overview will be filtered to some extent but is should be honest. If not, we are doing a huge disservice to our children who we unwillingly forced into the nasty business of politics at a very young age during this election.

The question kept rolling around in my head. If they asked, what would I tell my daughters? My wife and I were driving back from an appointment. We were stuck in traffic and she was killing time catching up on the latest social media for the week. She had been extremely busy at work and traveling for the week. She continued to stumble upon the same question. She dropped her phone in her lap looked over to me and said. “Why would people struggle for words on what to say to their kids in the morning after this election?” “The only words that matter: “Get your butt up, get your shoes on, and get dressed for school”

That was a very simple response to an extremely complicated issue. It is why I married my wife. She is amazing and incredible role model for my daughters. She has worked extremely hard to compete in a male-dominated field. In all these years, never once has she stated that she did not succeed or was held back because she was a woman. We know the reality of the situation, but she will not let it define her. I felt I needed to expand on the topic and thought of a few more things to tell my children in the morning.

  • NO ONE can hold you back in anything you set your mind to do.
  • Do your best in everything you do.
  • Be the change you want to see in your life and in the world.
  • Seek out positive role models and surround yourself with as many as possible.
  • Model those role models and reach out and love those that have lost their way.
  • Never underestimate anyone and treat everyone with respect.
  • Don’t be afraid to befriend those who are different from you, They will make you a better person.
  • Finally, get your butt to practice, listen to your coaches, be the best teammate possible and continue to do amazing things with your diverse, amazing team. Respect the legacy those before you have created, and make it better.  

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I am not naive enough to think that these simple words will fix all the complexities with this past election. As parents, the only thing we have control of is producing the best children we are capable of. That is in our control. That is how we create the change we all so desperately seek. It’s on us, make the change together by keeping it simple.

The one thing Allstar Cheerleaders need from their Dad.

The different trials in life are always interesting. As with many families, it typically starts with a few activities. Little Susie or Tommy starts to tinker with a group activity here or there. It may start with soccer, move on to dance, ballet or gymnastics. All fantastic group activities that build lifelong skills. During this time of self-exploration and self-discovery, it is common to dismiss things while your child finds their calling or passion. It is also typical for us dads to lose interest in supporting our young ones as they bounce from activity to activity because they can’t seem to stick to anything. Then it happens… they walk into the Allstar Cheerleading gym.

As I enter my fourth year in an Allstar cheer gym I have seen the complete cycle of dad interaction. During the first year of Allstar Cheerleading,  dads will cautiously approach the building, scan the area, scope out their territory etc. As they gingerly tip toe into what in their mind is a scary place. No matter what team the child is on, the father will ultimately find the furthest, quietest corner in the building and plop a squat. As they begin to scan the room they are desperately seeking another dad.

Upon observation dads normally have this sequence of emotions.

  1. Well, this is not the type of Cheerleading that I imagined.
  2. This is a very disciplined organization.
  3. Why do we spend so much time/ money here?
  4. The coaches are not playing here are they?
  5. HOLY MOLY did you see that? How did they do that? and so on…
  6. Now I see why we spend so much time/money here.

If you are fortunate enough to have Worlds team in your building the mere sight of what that team is doing on the mats will peak a new dad’s interest. Typically, it starts with them shooting up out of their seat and possibly uttering something inappropriate under their breath. Then the first competition starts and things get complicated for dads. I have seen many responses and you can typically place a dad in each one of these buckets.

  1. The overwhelmed dad– This Dad is intimidated by the entire experience. He is not sure how to respond to the competitions, the practice schedule, the intensity level, the overall commitment. He simply does not know where he fits in.
  2. The Dismissive dad– This is not my thing. I am a hardcore Football/ Baseball/ Hockey/ Basketball Dad and Allstar Cheerleading is not my thing but I will go, and duck out quickly.
  3.  The Passive dad-Who is busy being focused on his career and providing for his family. Will listen to the trials and tribulations, but will come to a few competitions if any. Certainly will be supportive but from afar.
  4. The All-In dad– You will find this Dad front and center. Probably knows more about the score sheet and rival teams than he should. Decked out in gym attire and may occasionally over-compensate by wearing a silly costume or make an over the top sign. In the severe cases, has written a book or writes a blog (Ahem..)

I could go on and on about the different types of dads. The Dads listed above are all equally important no-one is any better than the other, and all have a role to help with the success of their son or daughter in this incredible sport. No matter where you fit in the Dad spectrum in Allstar Cheerleading, overwhelmingly there is one thing that I would ask you to give your athlete no matter what age or level.

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The one thing Allstar Cheerleaders need from their dads is a CHANCE. Give them an opportunity to win you over and share their amazing experience. The Allstar Cheerleading community is a very tight-knit group. Once you enter the inner circle, the life lessons you will observe (once you give this sport a chance) will live up to any perceived expectation you could ever dream of. Our sons and daughters only need one thing from us and that is an effort to show genuine interest in their team and passion.

Some dads can be very intimidated by this and that is ok. If you are not sure how this whole thing works, I would ask you to do one simple thing. Take a moment and ask your son and daughter how this whole Allstar Cheerleading thing goes down. I promise, you will not understand what a full-up, a half or a smush is, and that is ok. The mere question you ask will mean so much to them. You will be a hero in their eyes. If you feel more comfortable sharing old war stories when you were a kid and persevered in a sport, even better.

Every minute you spend with them rubs off on them. Every story, every moral, every hug, every kiss, every time you discipline them, every time you make them go to practice when they don’t want to, every time you wipe away their tears, every time you buy them dippin dots at the competition, every time they see you show compassion when things don’t go as planned on the mats– it all rubs off. Your kindness, your wisdom, your examples, your lame jokes. They all rub off. We have some pretty amazing dads in our gym. We like to recruit more.

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Remember, you’re molding a little life here, a very impressionable little mind, and you are your kid’s role model. Their hero. Show them how it’s supposed to be done in your own way. You do not have to be over the top or costume dad. Just give them a chance to show you what they have with their team. You will mess up a lot. (as I certainly have).  As your child grows older, you’ll be amazed at how you two wind up having so much in common both in success and in failure. Why is that? Because he or she is just like his/her dad and you knew enough to give them a chance to include you in their journey.