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.
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!
It’s that time of year again. You have been practicing since May. The squad is solid, the routine is locked and perfected. You know every move you teammate is going to make. It is time to make the trip to Atlanta, Ga for Cheersport Nationals.
The logistics begin to make this a successful trip for athletes and parents alike. The uniforms are packed the make-up and hairspray are strategically positioned for easy access. The hotel is booked and travel plans engaged. You have the inflatable furniture packed and the Stiletto heels ready to go! *LOUD RECORD SCREECHING SOUND* Wait What??????
Yes, you read that right. People do what they have to do to survive the Cheersport Nationals. It is an awesome competition and an incredible experience. It needs to be managed carefully or it can quickly spiral into a massive challenge on many levels. Here are some tips to make sure you maximize your experience.
- Leave the Jimmy Choo’s at home!– This is no joke. You will walk miles upon miles going from warm up room, to competition area, to awards. Bring the FitBit because you will rack up the steps more than you would even believe. The last three years we have walked over six miles per day. Bring comfortable shoes!
- If you are going to bring the inflatable furniture do it in style!Listen, i’m not here to judge. You are going to see inflatable furniture up in this bad boy. Folks have to do what they have to do. Parents who have more than three athletes competing have my personal blessing to bring an inflatable sectional couch to the competition if needed. There is a ton of standing and a lot of downtime. Stay comfortable people you will need your rest! Just make sure you coordinate and do it in style!
- Remember this competition is not about you- For the younger children ( heck even parents), this place is extremely intimidating. There will be close to 70,000 people at Cheersport this year. The Georgia World Congress Center has its own ZIP CODE for a reason. Remember your team will be extremely amped up and excited. There is a lot of pressure to execute and the electricity is infectious. If you can simply put yourself in the shoes of your athlete you will be fine. Keep the drama to a minimum and go with the flow. Don’t sweat the small stuff. (There will be a ton of small stuff!) Keep your focus on helping your athlete through the day. Pace yourself, and take in the experience it awesome.
- Take a break from the Competition festivities! If pulsating cheer music for 8-9 hours is your thing fantastic! Sit there and take it all in. For most, it will be healthy to take in something outside of the competition. Luckily there is tons to do within short walking distance of the competition. Take a look at the spectator packet for a ton of great deals and activities for the weekend. Most of what you need to know can be found right HERE. My personal favorite is the circus, but I am a kid at heart.
- Come out to Stingrays and make new friends– Listen, it’s a long weekend and teams from all over the world will be here. It would be a shame not to share this wonderful experience with others. Share some kindness and some sportsmanship we all in this together for this long weekend. For most, this is an annual experience it’s good to share with others. If you come in early, make sure to come out and visit The Stingray Allstars in Marietta, Ga Its a short drive from downtown Atlanta. There are teams that practice and visit from all over the world. Swing by and say hi.
- Watch the best of the best- The fight to watch the Senior teams is intense. It gets ugly trying to get a position to watch the best teams in the world compete. Just be aware and careful especially if you have little ones. If you let your guard down before a popular team comes up, the crowd get feisty very fast jockeying for position. If your team is lucky enough to hit both days you MIGHT win. If that happens, you will have a lifelong memory for both your athlete and yourself. Even if you don’t, you will never forget the experience and you can build off it in the future.
7. Watch a Cheersport Documentary- If you have never been, take a look at this documentary of the 2018 National Champion Black Rays. It’s an up close and personal example of the entire weekend through the eyes of the team and their quest to win a National Championship and earn a bid to Summit.
You have been working all year. Now is the payoff time. Stay safe and enjoy your time. Plan ahead and allow plenty of time to do anything. Make sure to plan your meals unless you want to live off of Dippin Dots and Limited food options which is what I do. If you see me make sure and say hello. I would love to talk to and I am sure my daughters would love to meet you! Cheers! Let me know some of your awesome or not so awesome Cheersport National stories.
This post is a fantastic overview of how Summit works. This also put into perspective how incredible the run of the MinnieMintsandMickey actually was. This 2015 journey to the Summit was the inspiration of Welcome to Mintland Hope you enjoy!
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.
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.
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.
It’s no secret I can be a long-winded person. It’s a blessing and a curse in this day and age. I have made it my mission in life to make sure I never say “it all went by so fast” or “where did the time go.” I am sure I will fail eventually and cave to that phrase, but I will try to take in every moment. It is important to reflect on experiences good and bad. It is what builds character and develops our future. It’s a building block.
One of the main purposes of writing Welcome to Mintland was making sure the kids appreciated this time in their lives. In between practices, school, tumble classes, school projects, parties, and travel. Most of the time they do not get an opportunity to smell the roses. In the era of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat etc.. kids (and adults) are now trained to appreciate moments in the split second they take a look at that picture or meme on their favorite social media account. After that quick instance of gratification, it is off to the next piece of context or photo. There is no time for reflection or appreciation of a job well done. There are some stories that are worth more that the 7/8 of a second we dedicate to viewing our journey.
At the end of the season, one of the observations I made was that I did not get the sense the team understood what they accomplished. I was literally scared to death that they would take the moment and their journey for granted while chasing the next skill or accomplishing more great things at school or at cheer. I think subliminally, that was why I felt compelled to write this story.
All Star Cheerleading moves at the speed of Social Media. It is how the entire community communicates. I am as guilty as anybody. It is efficient and necessary for a worldwide audience to stay connected as closely as we all do. We all must realize there are some stories that deserve more than just a tweet or a snap. This community deserves more than that. I hope more take the time to realize this time in your life will be amazing and not everything in your life should be broken down into 8 counts. Sometimes you need to back up and observe from the judges table and smile down on the performance in front of you, take it all in and build from it.
I would love to hear about your special moments. Feel free to share.
When you set your path in life. You would like to think you have a vision. Ultimately, your vision will guide you to your ultimate destination. I clearly have a blurry vision, but an exciting one. The most exciting piece of dedicating time to your children is that you get to live through their eyes, but with more experience. I have had the opportunity of a lifetime over the last 12 months to do just that. One of the many gifts that have emerged from this time is a very unexpected project.
I never thought of myself as a writer. If I would ever think of writing something, I would guess it would be about team culture or success of sales teams or advertising. Never in a million years would I ever dream I would write about an experience I had with a group of AllStar Cheerleaders.
I have been surrounded by very gifted writers for a very long time. Working at USA TODAY, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Creative Loafing in Atlanta there is no shortage of some of the best writers in the world. One thing I noticed with all of them is that they did their best work when they were inspired or passionate about something. Almost touched by a superior being. I guess that is what happened when I sat down to write about Welcome to MintLand. When you watch something magical happen before your eyes that can be perceived like an average experience to the innocent bystander, you feel compelled to tell the story. I simply told the story. This story needed to be told, if not for anyone but the team. I was also exhausted from trying to explain the exhilaration of competitive cheer to everyone. You just have to experience it. This was an opportunity to do so. To get a glimpse of the magic that is Welcome to Mintland you can view the book trailer below.
The book has been released for only a few weeks but I get asked a two main questions. 1.How did you have time to do this? The answer, I made time for this. 2. Why did you write this book? This is where the passion comes in.
Welcome to Mintland is about Allstar Cheer ,but the story is much more than that. This story is a group of 6,7,8-year-old kids that became an unstoppable force founded by love and belief in each other. This is NOT a story of some incredible undefeated season. It is a story about what you can accomplish given challenges in the road. It is about recalibrating your vision to a better goal. This team supported everyone along the way including other teams. No one ever felt better than each other. This book is about the word “team” and the power of positivity and belief in others. It’s about a team that completely believed in each other and knew no boundaries to how far they could go as a group.
The book also epitomizes the importance of a strong leader who took them to new heights both as a team and as people. The coaching staff saw the determination, work ethic and heart in this team and it was infectious.
I had two goals in writing this book.
1. When people read this book I want them to take a piece of the culture and share it. Build upon this experience with their new teams, friends, colleges and parents. This spirit which is Mintland should become infectious.
2. When this team grows up and begins their larger journey in life, I want them to reflect on this time and remember the importance of surrounding yourself with incredible people, belief in others, hard work and faith. It will be handy in life.
There are too many life lessons to share, which are outlined in the book. Although the book is about Allstar Cheer they can be applied to any sport and in life. I hope you enjoy the book, and would love to know what you think.