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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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 Only Certainty in Allstar Cheerleading Tryouts.

The start of a new allstar cheerleading season can be a bittersweet moment.It’s a new era, the beginning of an intense and amazing journey. The previous month was filled with intense excitement and the memories that will last a lifetime as you wrapped up your season.

Day 1 begins with indescribable emotions. The teams have been released, hopes have been realized and dreams have been crushed. New parents and athletes will walk through the doors with an intense anxiety to be a part of something that is bigger than the individual. Most do not yet know what that entails, but it will come.

Your cheer family all saw what happened last year. Every single one of us agreed the industry and strategy changed from Level 1 all the way up to the Worlds Teams this past year. It happens every year. We all sat and talked and strategized about what needed to be done as uneducated cheer parents. We were then excited when we heard rumblings from our beloved coaching staff that they were seeing the same things and laid out a plan to address the concerns to make our incredible gym even stronger for this year. Then it happens. Team announcements are made and the reality of those changes hits home. Little Suzie is asked to go to a team in a challenging division or team you never in a million years saw coming. Maybe you did not get the level or age group you wanted. Maybe you are elated that Suzie was asked to go to a higher level team. Maybe your BFF is on a different team. The challenges are endless but the excitement and the disappointments are always there.

After doing this for a few years now, I can promise you one thing. Know that your coaches agonized over every detail to assemble you on that team. Know that every superlative in the book was taken into consideration when you were placed on that team. Know that the skill that you threw everything at trying to accomplish in the final three weeks before tryouts may have been accomplished in January while we spent half our class staring at snapchat or chatting away during class. Maybe in that class, the coach was not as attentive as they should have been. Did you grab their hand and say, “I need you right now cause I really want this?” Maybe the skill is accomplished, but the coaches need a leader who has been there to guide a new team. Maybe you are that person who from day 1 can show the team how these skills need to be done and the coach will lean on you to show the way to set the pace for an amazing season. That is as important (if not more important) than last pass or center flyer. Can you see and remember that person from last year? Can that person be you?

New athletes and parents will look to all of us to create our own culture of success. What your gym has is special. It is important to walk that culture from day 1. Entitlement is not a word in our vocabulary in this sport. You get what you earn. Sometimes there are certainly tough breaks or decisions that do not go our way. We are all a family and we will stick together. We will not think less of Suzie if she is not on the anticipated team. Quite the opposite. We will always rally behind each other and our kids because that is what cheer parents do. We will rally to get our kids to practice on time, we will help the cheer dad who needs help with bows and makeup. We will rally to find the hair tie, or locate the missing uniform or bow 5 minutes before call time. We will hold the child up who is sick and about to go on stage for 2:30 even though they can barely stand and we will catch them after they fall from exhaustion after performing while being sick. We will cry the tears of joy and cry the tears of pain. We will have each others back. We will show up no matter what and we will get through it all together.

The only certainly I know of in Allstar Cheerleading tryouts is this. After starting the new mission, (if you choose to accept it) you will be rewarded with a unique experience  and a lifetime of memories and experiences that will make you an even more incredible human being. Most importantly, you will never in a million years just focus on the feeling you had in May during placements. You will remember your team and your entire cheer family being amazing together. You will work harder, dedicate more than most and sacrifice the indescribable all to be part of something bigger than yourself, and it will be oh so amazing!

Good Luck to everyone this year!

 

Overcoming the fear of failure and accepting accountability…..

failure-300x243In previous posts I have eluded to the scary part about joining a startup company. Playing entrepreneur is one thing,  jumping in head first and going all in is completely another. Knowing the failure rate of an early stage startup is something a person needs to understand before making this jump. Many cities have a challenge finding good talent in the startup world. Recently the CEO of Rivalry Jon Birdsong eloquently described the situation in Atlanta HERE. With the mix of tight funding, a talent crunch for tech and environment of the unknown makes for a serious uphill battle.

Understanding the risks is one part of the equation. Accepting accountability for the success or failure of your product or efforts is also part of the deal. What happens when you start hearing about the realities of your baby (product). Failing Fast is important and shifting the direction of your concept is vital to the survival of the company. Even if that means the demise of a role within the company. Typically, the person on the front lines gathering intel and feedback from customers is typically the person who can figure out the direction of the product the best. Most of the time this should be the CEO or Biz Dev person.

When your company feels it is ready to take the product to market, do so aggressively do not be passive. Get the product in the hands of everyone that will use it. There will be many opportunities for feedback either from what customers tell you or more importantly what they don’t tell you.  The devil is always in the details. If you run into to many barriers of entry it may be time to go back to the drawing board. One major signal is a pricing objection. If you are getting in front of a bunch of people and never get a price objection, that is a strong signal that you need to pivot .

Let me elaborate, when you are consistently arriving at the price negotiation stage with your customers it means you may be on to something.  If you are not getting here this means the customer does not see enough value in what you bring to the table or they have a similar solution that they do not see the value in changing from. Overcoming objections and learning from them is one thing. At some point, the product needs to sell itself. Keep in mind that potential customers are eager to get to the price stage if they want the product. It is typically the only stage in which they have control of the situation it is a very important stage that will tell you a lot.

Accepting accountability in any organization is a big part of personal and professional growth. With limited seed funding available, that may mean making some tough choices as development costs will take priority over everything else, as they should! If you do not fit in to developing a better product (technically) for the customer, this may mean you need to step away or your position will be eliminated. This is a reality, as it should be in any position in a startup or in the corporate world.  For many people this is a tough pill to swallow. I have struggled with this portion for years. For me, if you are stagnating at a cube in a corporate environment and not adding any value collecting a pay check I would challenge you to step up.

This means many things for many people but you will know your boundaries, try to cross them. Ask a question in a meeting, take on that new challenge that you know you could do but don’t think you will be called upon. Do Something! If you fail, good for you. Learn, Grow and know that you tried to make a difference. You will be much better for it, trust me I fail a lot.

What else is involved with the fear of failure? What are some of the factors that are in play? How much risk is too much risk? How do you hedge the risks you take? I would love to hear from you.

Cheers,

Eric