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.

 

 
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Is it time to quit Allstar Cheerleading?

It’s that time of year again. It’s a few weeks before Worlds and Summit. You either have a bid or you don’t. Those that don’t are struggling with that fact. Those that do are pushing themselves to the limit after an exhausting  eight-month season. The school work is piling up, spring break is imminent and people are out having fun.

If you have a bid you are doing multiple full outs, you may even be in the middle of school tryouts on top of practicing for Worlds and Summit. Tryout packets are already being turned in for next season. A few others are getting a head start on tryouts. They are perfecting their new skills and passes for next season and you are stuck perfecting the same routine you have performed for the past 7 months. You are still not hitting every time. The coach is making final tweaks, squeezing out every once of points to maximize the score sheet. You are reaching a breaking point. You are using every ounce of energy and focused on not letting your team down….. and those oh so precious Worlds and Summit rings. It’s getting really really hard.

In the back of your mind, you are asking yourself the questions you don’t yet know the answers to. Your parents are pushing you to make a commitment or at least declare for next year. You are running through all the scenarios and asking all the questions you seem to struggle with every single year.

  1. Is the sacrifice worth it?
  2. Do I risk losing everything I worked for if I take a year off?
  3. Would I be able to listen to all of my friends doing incredible things next year in Cheer?
  4. Will I miss the adrenaline rush?
  5. Will I miss my teammates, the struggles, the successes and the bonds?
  6. I am so close to achieving my next skill should I give up now?
  7. What would it be like just to be a normal kid with free time?
  8. My family is here at the gym, would I miss them?
  9. I am tired of getting coached and “yelled at” but I know it is for our own good.
  10. I mean…. I can still tumble right?
  11. Will my parents and coaches be disappointed?

The questions keep coming in your head and then we drop a stunt in practice. The conditioning starts again and it hurts. More full outs come, the questions in my head are becoming easier to answer…. or are they?

Allstar cheer is big on showing all the “look at me” moments. For every award ceremony showing the winning announcement there are 8-15 other teams that do not get the glory. No one shows the video of the agony and crying going on in practice. The stunt and choreography camps, the hours upon hours of sacrifice during tumble and stunting classes. Do you want to do all of that again for one more year?

Your parents are torn. They struggle with the pain of you choosing not to do this again next year, but hoping and praying that you do. They know that you love to do this but would love the extra 6-8 hours a week back (not counting drive time or multiple siblings in a program.) They understand you have no idea the value of the life lessons you are learning but continue to throw thousands of dollars at your dream. The choice is yours (or at least it should be)There are a few weeks left, what are you going to do?

It’s time for Worlds and Summit. You are at ESPN WWOS and the energy is electric. You have one more shot with this squad you have called family for the past 8 months. It is time for one last quest together as a team to capture the dream you have worked for all year.

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Is it time to quit Allstar Cheerleading? There is going to be a time where you have to answer the question, “Am I going to do this again next year?” We hope you will but you will make the right decision for yourself when that time comes. The one thing you will absolutely know many years from now is that the routine you worked so hard on for the past 8 months only lasts 2:30 but the memory of that routine, the journey and the team that you called family will last a lifetime…….The choice is yours what will it be?

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!

 

 

 

Realizing there is absolutely no point to Allstar Cheerleading.

You have dedicated most of your childhood to this. You have climbed every rung up the Allstar Cheerleading ladder to master every skill possible. You have done your best to surround yourself with amazing teammates, coaches and a community that supports you in everything you do. You have fought through injury, you have worked through lack of God given talent to master the skills that come easy for others. You have pushed through the mental challenges that tell your body there is no way on earth anyone should be able to do this, but you do it.

You have stared down fear, you perform in front of thousands of people with the bright lights blaring and nowhere to run. You go to practice when you want to quit and feel horrible. You have been the underdog. You have felt the intense pressure of being a National Champion and trying to keep that title. You have felt and pushed through the incredible pressure from being on top of the world, and tried to stay there. Knowing that if you can execute through the intense pressure of everyone gunning for you, it will create the perfect diamond. You have sacrificed parties, dances, Proms, free time, ridicule, all to be the best at what you do with your teammates.

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You respect and admire the coaches that spend the majority of the time demanding excellence and screaming at you to get every ounce of effort and focus out of you. You hate them for it and love them all at the same time.You have been blessed to let your talents shine on that stage and you have reached the pinnacle of your craft. You have earned every right to jump on Twitter, FB, Insta or Snap and scream from the rooftop that you are the absolute best there is, but you don’t, because your parents and coaches have brought you up better than that.

You will reach a breaking point during all of this. After you have done all you can possibly do, there will be a time when you say to yourself, “There is absolutely no point to Allstar Cheerleading.” At about this time, I hope and pray with all my heart that you take a look around. I would also ask you to analyze some things. We know you are young and will make some mistakes, but I would ask you to think twice about your actions. Think about the power of social media. Think about the words you choose and the actions you take. When you hide behind that anonymous Twitter handle and spew hate and tear people down who have risen to the top of their craft. When you try to tear others down because you are tired and worn out from practice, school, other responsibilities. When you are frustrated that others are getting the attention after a tough loss.

While you have been so dialed in focusing on your craft, you may have lost sight of those around you, understandably so. I hope and pray that you notice the little Tiny and Mini that idolizes you. I hope you notice the admiration in their eyes staring up at you. I hope you notice after you complete that last pass. There is a Tiny and a Mini analyzing your every move and only one day hoping to duplicate your skill level. I hope you watch when they perfect that forward roll or cartwheel and they are so overcome with joy they stumble over themselves in excitement giving their coaches huge hugs. I only wish that you could see that after those littles come home from practice and competitions they get right back to work creating new routines using your name and the team you represent. When they practice along side you and go for their water break they are longing for you to say hi or give them a high five because to them, you are their biggest hero. I hope you respect that. Carosblog

We all know you did not ask for this, but suspect somewhere along the line of your success there was someone you looked up to. Someone you admired and wanted to be like. Hopefully, they took you under their wing and gave you an encouraging smile or shout of encouragement. Your legacy means something whether you like it or not. An encouraging smile or taking a moment to watch that little team that is working so hard to be like you can move mountains.

At the end of the day, this is a very small world. You understand the bond and the legacy that Allstar Cheerleading represents better than anyone. You know that when the chips are down and you enter the real world outside of cheer, there is no one else you would rather surround yourself with than people who have went through the same challenges and triumphs as you. That could be the very person who you may or may not have been tearing down on #CheerTwitter.

You may not know it now, but the life lessons and skills you are learning that I have laid out in If you are in business…Never hire an Allstar Cheerleader mean nothing if you tarnish or don’t respect the legacy you leave. It means something…it means a lot. If you are not going to do it for the Tiny or Mini cheerleader I mentioned earlier, I understand. Maybe you won’t even consider it for your parents who have sacrificed an immense amount to give you these life skills, opportunities and experiences in life that you may not even recognize at this stage in your life. I certainly hope and pray that you do it for the person you are staring at in the mirror, because you deserve it, and the people you surround yourself with deserve it as well.

There is a circle of life that is Allstar Cheerleading. The circle will then extend into college or any other life path you choose in life. You will be amazing as you always have been. The learning curve may be longer, but you need to realize you built your craft over the course of many years. Life is the same way. The legacy you leave means everything to the future. Respect the honor of what you do by being the better person now.  Continue to be amazing in everything you do, because that is what you know and that is what you were programmed to do.

 

 

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….