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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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?

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.

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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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.

The episode you have all been waiting for!

Well gang, it’s ready. Chapter 10  The Peppermint Plot Twist. The podcast of the chapter that answers all the questions people have about the magical allstar season we have come to love.

How did a mini team end up at Summit?

Was this REALLY a mini team?

How did this all happen? Why did it happen?

Did the parents know this was going to happen? What was the reaction when you heard the news?

How does a young team handle the situation of hitting on both days of a competition but coming up short and not winning at NCA?

As a parent, how do you handle that situation with a 6-year-old?

What was the reaction of the team when they learned what they were going to attempt?

It’s all here in Chapter 10! Complete with an interview with Blair Green a parent of one of the Peppermints on the team and my daughter Kaitlyn who was a member of the Minnie Mints and Mickey.

I hope you enjoy and please take a minute to give the podcast a review in iTunes. I would greatly appreciate it.

Listen to the Chapter 10 Podcast HERE

If you would like to listen to the podcast on YouTube you can listen HERE

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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