Because of Allstar Cheer, When you fall in love… I will know..

 

So when did it happen for you? Was it age 11? Was it age 4? Was it 6 or 7? When did all this madness begin? As a parent, we want our children to try new things. We want them to flourish and latch on to fun hobbies to help build character, skills, make friends and build lifetime memories. We want to teach our children values built through goal setting and hard work. All of this is achieved through the learning process and discovery. As a parent, I hope you know when special moments happened. Let me explain.

As a father of two daughters, the discovery process for activities started early for us. We started with the Little Gym as we found our daughters loved the engagement and activities involved. The motor skills and the early tumbling drills sparked an interest in both of my daughters. I could tell they “liked it”. We moved on to try dance. It was fun, they did their little steps and routines they learned coordination, timing, and 8 counts. They “liked it”. We then moved on to gymnastics. This really began to move the needle for them, they watched as the older kids flew through the air with such grace and practiced hard to learn each skill. We went to gymnastics for quite a while, they did ok. They “liked it”.

It was suggested that we take a look and try a gym that was relatively close to us. A gym that was known locally as a really good gym. That incorporated Cheer, Dance and Tumble. As I plotted along, I agreed to go visit the gym down the road from us. We were generously offered a free tumble class to see how my daughters liked the program. My oldest daughter wanted to cheer, so we signed her up to be on a team. At the time, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. While my oldest went to practice my little 4yr old went out to the free tumble class. She went out for about 30 minutes and the coaches worked with her. After about 35 minutes I noticed something very different, a look I had never seen before from my young daughter. An effervescent glow. She was high fiving the coaches and was completely amped up. The next thing I know, one of the coaches walked upstairs to talk to my wife. The coaches said they were very impressed with her skills and think she would be a great addition to the Grape Rays. I had no idea what that meant, but I could not get over the glow my daughter had. I agreed we could try out for the team and the coaches agreed to let her attend one of the early practices. We came back later in the week and within 10 minutes of being on the floor the bases had her up in the air in a “half” and she popped right up and hit her first “High V”. After that night, something drastically changed.

She “liked” everything. The tumbling, the structure, the dance, the stunts, the coaches. A few months later the Grape Rays would enter their first exhibition for the season. I was scared out of my mind for her. They took to the mats started their routine. They began with a flawless opening into the pyramid sequence. The bases hoisted her in the air. The crowd erupted in cheers and it was then I knew. The face a Father will never forget. The face of a little girl that just fell in love.

My daughter is too young to read and comprehend this article now. In twenty years she may stumble upon this blog post about the amazing Grape Rays that she was a part of. You may find a time in your life that you will find it in your heart to come and tell me you have found someone very special to you. When that time comes around, please know this. When you tell me about this special someone,  I will know the moment you mention the name of this person if you are genuinely in love. I will remember the little girl who I saw instantly fall in love with something special. It will look a little something like the picture below. The very moment, in this exact picture is when I knew.

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Grape Rays 2013 Circus Jam

Here we are three years later with an opportunity for your magical team to make a bit of history together. The friendships, bonds and experiences I know you will hold in your heart forever. Things will change and your passions may sway to other things. I will never forget the first forward roll, cartwheel, front and back walkover and back handspring. The elation in your face will be forever engrained in my heart. The lesson I am most proud of is that you are learning to be a great teammate.

In Allstar cheer you are unable to do anything without your teammates you are forced to work together to have success. I only hope one day you realize the amazing feats your coaches have trained you to do. They have believed in you and you have believed in your team. What makes this so serendipitously beautiful is that you do not even realize you are doing it together as a team. You just do it.

In whatever your future holds in Allstar cheer or anything else you choose to fall in love with. I hope you remember everything about your season. They say that Tiny cheerleaders do not get it. I can easily say that after watching your teams for the past three years I would take the heart, work ethic and fundamentals you have been taught and hold them as high as any other team out there. Your team has transcended “just being cute”. Your team is truly something special.You know what you are fighting for and you have been given the skills and  have earned the right to achieve your goals together with your team. I hope you wish upon a star and all of your dreams come true together as a team, if that does not happen I can honestly say you have done your best. Most importantly, you have had a ton of fun.

Things will begin to get harder and life will change, but I will never forget the heart and pure joy you display with all of your friends for the past three years on the amazing Grape Rays. So below I will share a little memento of your teams final journey. Your team did the impossible, you earned the prestigious Varsity Triple Crown winner for Level 1. As a Tiny team. I hope you enjoy!

 

 

 

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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 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.