The Challenge of Explaining Allstar Cheerleading

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

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

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

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

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

I hope you enjoy “Chasing Destiny”

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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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When an Allstar Cheer Coach takes you higher than you ever dreamed of.

I have heard it many times. “If you demand excellence out of your team, you just might get it. If you don’t you will never understand a teams true potential.”

This is an expectation we understand in the allstar cheerleading community.  We watch worlds teams chase perfection to achieve their destiny every year. High expectations, work ethic, emotional ups and downs. “The process” as it is referred, is an excepted term that explains the journey that is a complete season in allstar cheer.

What if it’s not a worlds team? Let’s take this perspective and apply it to a mini team. Is that fair? If done properly, it absolutely is!

It takes an amazing coach with sound fundamentals in development and leadership to create an unbreakable culture within. If a coach repeats the mantra. ” Our goal is to be the best mini team in the world” it is a very special moment when that team dares to believe what the coach tells them every week in every practice. Have we seen teams gel together and become amazing? Absolutely, it happens to hundreds of mini teams every year. As parents I understand it can be challenging to accept the notion that young children can be coached to such levels. There is a fine line between coaching genius and taking it too far with any age group. If the proper fundamentals of having fun, doing your best at all times and not placing emphasis on winning, the rest will fall into place and become history.

Sometimes, the culture of that team overflows and rubs off on the entire gym. I delve into the topic on the new podcast Welcome to Mintland Chapter 11 

This chapter describes the amazing goal that a coach puts before a mini team and how they chose to respond as a group. It is an amazing story about the ” little mini team that could” and the 2015 World Champion Stingray Allstars Peach The world champions adopt our beloved mini team and become mentors and spirit animals to a team trying to defy the odds. Here is an excerpt from the book that describes a moment at UCA.

“All of the Mints immediately stood up and began screaming their little lungs out, but this time it was different. The roar of the milkhouse crowd drowned out the cheers from the little mini team that had consistently had their back all year. Peppermints spirit and love transcended the noise of the crowd, it was too strong to be drowned out and they emanated a spirit that was very clearly felt all the way down on the mats at UCA.”  – Welcome to Mintland

Don’t be afraid to embrace a coach that challenges you and takes you to new heights. It will not be easy. It will be emotionally draining and exhausting. I promise you one thing, if your team and coaches fully commit, no matter what age, no matter what skill level you will achieve a lifetime of achievements, lessons and memories that you will be able to apply to life for many years to come. You will NEVER EVER forget the heights that coach will take you. Embrace it.

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….