The blessings of taking risks and trying new things.

One year ago today, encouraged by some special parents, I released the book trailer to Welcome to Mintland. I remember being so scared and intimidated to share it with everyone. It was important for me to set the tone of what the book was about and the magic I hoped to capture. I still even now agonize about the details of everything. I knew once I released the trailer there was no turning back, the book would have to be released. It was a very scary time for me.
The day I released the trailer. Welcome to Mintland was over 3/4 of the way completed. I had no idea what I was doing or how I would actually get this book published. I still to this day do not know what compelled me to write it. I needed to take a break from writing and decided to create the book trailer (again a first for me). It took me many many hours to get it right in my head and then transferred to video. After I created what I thought captured the essence and tone of the book. I gathered up enough courage to share the video with a trusted friend. After watching the video my friend said nothing, she just covered her mouth and broke down in tears. It was then I knew, the story of this magical team needed to be completed. Her reaction validated my instinct that this team and this story was something that may not happen ever again. The team being so young and naive had no idea what they had accomplished together. Looking back it all just seemed like a blur as everything simply fell into place as it was meant to happen.
As this story ages, it will continue to live on. My hopes are a few kids and parents read the story and are inspired to try new things. Hopefully, the message they take from the book is that if you believe in yourself and others you can accomplish ANYTHING no matter what your age is. Set a goal and go for it. If there is a bump in the road set a bigger goal and go for it! If someone tells you every day that you are special, that you can be the best in world and you dare to believe it, special things will happen.
The Finished Trailer From the Book Welcome to Mintland
For the next few weeks, we are donating all proceeds of sales of the book to the Louisiana Cheerforce GoFundMe Campaign. If you would rather donate straight to the cause in lieu of purchasing the book please do!
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Many of the former Peppermints ask me every day how many books we have sold for the flood victims. As I mentioned earlier, my hope was that the story would live on to build life long memories and create inspiration. I always tell them every little bit helps, but they will never know the devastation that happened. They feel good knowing their little story is helping people and that was the intent, as the spirit of the book will live on through them for many years to come.
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Helping the Flood Victims in Louisiana one book at a time.

As we all know, Louisiana has been ravaged by floods as the area was hit with unprecedented rains that exceeded over 25 inches in 48 hours. I’ve seen limited news coverage on this event but was learning the extent of the flooding via social media. As I was scrolling through twitter. I stumbled upon something that hit me directly. One of the local Allstar Cheerleading teams Louisiana Cheerforce located in Baton Rouge posted a gofundme page for all the athletes and parents affected by the flooding. My heart sank as an emotional plea the cheer gym reached out to our cheer community. As I read the gofundme page I wanted to do something to help.

The thought of the families struggling to cope with the devastation of piecing their lives together is unimaginable. We would like to think that the last thing on everyones mind in a tragedy like this would be Allstar cheerleading. To children, unfortunately, that is not the case. Many in the Allstar cheerleading community understand that being with your teammates and friends in your home away from home with your coaches is normalcy.

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That being said,  as I mentioned earlier I wanted to help. What I would like to do is donate ALL REVENUES made from book sales of Welcome to Mintland in the next 30 days to this cause. I wrote this book to make sure the story of childhood dreams and perseverance when faced with adversity, were shared with all. I know that this will not make even the slightest dent in the help needed in Louisiana, but if we can help give a little bit of hope by sharing the amazing story of the 2015 Stingray Allstars Peppermint while raising a few dollars to help flood victims get back to normal. I am all for it! I know the team that was featured in this book would love to know that their story could potentially help others. My hope is to raise funds while inspiring a few people or cheer teams by reading about a Mini Allstar Cheerleading team that achieved their dreams by overcoming challenges in the road. It only seems fitting.

If you are reading this and have a friend who Cheers or know someone who would love to read a fun story about Allstar Cheerleading I would be honored if you share this info with them.

Here is a brief trailer for the book.

If you would like to learn more about the book, or purchase a book for the cause you may do so here : Welcome to Mintland 

 

Remember all proceeds over the next 30 days from book sales will go straight to Louisiana Cheerforce GofundMe page. Hopefully, this will be a Win/Win for all involved.

If you feel compelled to donate directly to the gofundme page you can do so HERE

Thank you for taking the time to read this and we are praying for all victims of Louisiana flooding.

Welcome to Mintland Site Launch

The number one request I’ve had over the past couple of months is how is the team doing, or where are they now?  I have done my best to keep up with the team and sharing stories and updates but unfortunately, the information has been all over the place.

Between the Welcome to Mintland FB page HERE, the Blog (You are currently reading) my YOUTUBE channel and my twitter handle, information was kind of tough to find. I wanted to let everyone know I have finally got around to creating a site where you can access all the information you would like about the team.

I have included some special parts of the season I was not able to share in the book. Including the video I created for the team before they went to Summit . I also included a video of Peppermints final performance together as a team at the Summit finals along with the book trailer explaining Welcome to Mintland. I have also included a ton of pictures that were cut from the book.

Ok i’ll stop rambling you can find the new site HERE. I hope you enjoy!

Remembering your moment in time in Allstar Cheer.

It is so great to have many of the Mintland crew back together on teams at Stingrays. I know a few of the original Mint crew are scattered amongst a few different teams and it is amazing to watch them blossom and grow. Since most of what happened in Welcome to Mintland happened at such a young age for most of them, it got me thinking. Do they remember that time? Will they remember the connections? Will they understand the scope of what they accomplished? Will they remember including everyone in the fun and the little things that made that team so unique? That is what made our moment in time so special. We will never get that moment in time back again.
 
It has been so fun to see the leadership and relationships from our time blossom and show up on all of our current teams. This week has been especially fun, as I am noticing the kids maturing and their personalities are really beginning to shine. I am noticing our Mints encouraging others when they are struggling. I am watching teammates pick each other up emotionally when things are not going their way. I see teammates ecstatic when one of their teammates learns a new skill. Basically, what I am saying is I am seeing  the pieces that made the original Welcome to Mintland team so special happening again. What makes the culture so fun is that they are sharing and including others in it. That is what it is all about. 
 
I personally had a moment this week that touched me. It was simple, no one noticed it except my wife sitting next to me (who was hitting me because she though I was instigating it) but it gave me hope that they will remember their moment in time.
Let me explain. In between stunt drills at practice, a few of our goof ball Minnie Mints currently on another team aka: “usual suspects” saw me sitting up in the fishbowl at Stingrays like I always do. (I will not release the current team or the names to protect the innocent as they should have been paying attention to their coaches:) .
They were attempting to get my attention and began to do some silly things. To most, it was probably just normal funny things kids do with downtime. To me, it was a reminder of the connection we had. It was some of the silly things we used to do backstage waiting to go to warm ups or while waiting for awards. I will not release exactly what was done, as break dancing and knocking out killer dance moves during practice is not Stingray policy :).  It was a little gesture, but it meant the world to me. They remembered the fun and more importantly, the place in time.Mint Xmas
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Growing Up and Making New Friends as Red Rays at Summit 2016
This is a tough time of year in allstar cheer. Teams are trying to learn the routine and downtime can be challenging while coaches figure out what is best. It was neat to see them make the most of it, and include a few other new team members in the moment. I was very flattered that they thought to include me. 
The jackets and medals in competition are nice but the connections and remembering the special moment in time during the grind of summer is what each allstar cheerleading season is all about. I am going to predict some very amazing things from our Mintland crew this year. They will continue the Mintland culture and tradition and be amazing because they are.
Many of the youth teams have figured out their goal for this year. It is a big one, it spread like wild fire once they figured out this “special thing” has never been done before. Will any of the youth teams achieve their goal? We will just have to wait and find out…..
 

Why Allstar Cheerleaders are Really Really Weird.

We have all heard it, or better yet we have all been subject to the “side eye”. It comes up frequently this time of year. The time where we as an Allstar Cheerleading community begin to re-emerge into society for last days of school and graduation parties. Old acquaintances and parents from school utter the inevitable words. “Where have you been the last 8 months?”

That is when we proudly go into our “defense mode” and share what we have been doing the last 8 months. It normally follows with a valiant attempt to share how passionate we are about what we do, and it typically fails miserably. Then the judgment follows or at least the pity or typically the statement. “Ohh my goodness, I know so and so who does that and I can’t believe that they do ALL THAT just for Allstar Cheer.” out of being humble and kind we normally respond “I know it is kind of weird huh?”

Let me take a minute to explain how weird “ALL OF THAT” is. In a world where the Millennial generation is vilified for being “entitled” let me explain some of the typical traits you will find in a WEIRD Allstar Cheerleader and their family.

At the graduation party or end of year party, you will find that us WEIRD KIDS will end up in the top third of our class routinely. You will find that we will end up going to fantastic colleges. You will find Facebook timelines full of children winning awards and superlatives for extracurricular achievements. You will find many of the WEIRD traits listed below on a regular. We are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination but we are on the right path in more cases than not. We display many of the items below everyday because it is what we do.

TEAMWORK

We have understood for years that nothing can be accomplished without surrounding ourselves with amazing teammates and wholeheartedly believing in them to help achieve one goal. We are taught from day one to believe in each other and work together. We are some of the most loyal people you will ever meet and if we trust you, we will give you the shirt off our back. We learn to trust in others and have faith because we have no choice.

WORK ETHIC

Our coaches teach us we will never be outworked… ever. That translates off the mats and carries over into school and in every other extracurricular activity we participate in. Not only do we work hard but we strive for absolute perfection and execution in practice and in competition. When we tighten our bow get outta the way. It’s about to go down.

HUMILITY

We are normally very quiet and respectful. While we are extremely competitive we know how to lose. We are graceful in defeat and show encouragement and respect even if the judges did not see it our way in competition or in life. We do make mistakes but will immediately start to improve on them both on the mat and off…..vigilently.

WE WEAR A LOT OF MAKE UP

Just kidding.. we actually hate it. Only on occasion or at competitions. In the odd event where we actually go to a dance or formal, it will be accompanied by our beloved Nike Pros under our dress, and our heels will be chucked in the corner after about 10 minutes of arriving.

WE TRAVEL IN PACKS

True Story. Go ahead and test this, I dare you. The most heated rivals in Allstar cheer will unite and become one in the event that someone tries to bully or make fun of anyone in the sport. Not kidding, do not test this theory. Everyone has each others back. Parents included.

FOCUSED

We sacrifice a ton. All to be the best at what we do. We focus on achieving that next skill for the betterment of the team and for ourselves. Idle time is non-existent and we would rather be in the gym instead of hanging out at Starbucks ( well sometimes). While we strive for perfection on the mat, that also translates into the classroom and everything else we do. Allstar Cheerleaders are trained to be extremely focused because they have to be.

MULTI-TASKERS

Juggling school, practices, tumbling, stunt, and a travel competition schedule is no joke. We often lead our school cheer teams as well. Not to mention we excel in track and field, band, choir the list goes on and on. We become multi-faceted at a very early age and we do it well. We excel in most everything we do.

CLOSERS

While many people have no idea what we do, we know how to prepare for success and execute. We do it for the teammate standing next to us. Later in life that will go a long way in the workforce. When the bright lights and the music begin to blare, we can stand up in front of thousands on that stage and nail that routine. Sometimes it does not go our way and things fall apart. When that happens we never EVER quit. We push through no matter what even under dire circumstances.

Yes, I know in this day and age that all of this is REALLY REALLY weird.  There are so many other traits I could list but I could go on and on. As I mentioned in If you are in Business…. NEVER hire an Allstar Cheerleader. these traits are very hard to find in the workplace. It’s ok, we have learned to embrace our WEIRD lifestyle, but as a wise man once said. “Live like no one else, so later in life, you can live like no one else” Thank you for your unintended judgment and amazement at what our children and coaches do. We are pretty proud of them as well.

 

 

It’s time for Summit!..Never Judge a Book by its Cover!

It is that time of year again. Almost a year has past since the amazing Mints did their thing at The Summit. If you are not familiar with Summit it is where the top 10% of the best (Level 1-5 non-worlds) Allstar Cheerleading teams from around the country are invited to the ESPN Wide World of Sports to compete in one of the most prestigious and competitive events in Allstar Cheerleading. It is an exciting time, and a time where lifetime memories will be made. The amazing event was one of the inspirations for writing the book Welcome to MintLand

Our family is very fortunate to be attending Summit once again this year with a new team The Stingray Allstars Red. It will be a very emotional time for many of us who had such an incredible time last year. I wanted to take this opportunity to address a few topics that have come up since I have written the book. Those outside of the Cheerleading world always ask me two questions about the book before they read it.

1. What does “Welcome to Mintland” mean?

2. What is the significance of the cover?

Of course, I always reply, “Well you will just have to read it and find out.” but I have thought a bit about that response and wanted to share a bit more to help people understand the significance.

Welcome to Mintland was the opening voice over in the Peppermint music. As many Allstar Cheerleaders will tell you, the team music will become your anthem. You remember each team you were on, every single motion and 8 count, your teammates and the significance of the season all by your music. Most will remember the music for the rest of their lives. It defines you, the team and the team persona.

In the book, I attempted to describe Welcome to Mintland as a culture that developed over an entire season. It began with the team formation and the bonding process of the kids. It took shape in the form of a cheer routine and overflowed with love and belief from the coaches and parents. Welcome to Mintland is indeed a state of mind. It is a living and breathing thing. Welcome to Mintland is not exclusive to Peppermint or The Stingray Allstars. This state of mind comes from the passion and love that develops over the course of the year. It was built by hours upon hours of hard work and solidified by faith in one another, and some would say fate.

As the voice over continues “The greatest place on earth has blue and green turf.” The culture was built upon everything magical about our special program. It probably has another name or significance in other gyms or other sports. Some would like to call it similar to “being in the zone.” Either way, that will give a little more insight into the significance of the book title.

 

As far as the book cover is concerned, many in the Cheerleading world will understand the significance at first sight. I will break down the significance of the cover for others to understand.

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Hopefully, I explained the significance of the title of the book. We will move on to the bow. The cover photo of the bow is the exact bow that the team wore to Summit. It was made especially for them, for this competition. The new bow signified a new attitude and a bond with the new Mints added for Summit.

Just below the photo is the red mountains. Of course, this has many symbolic references. Since the team colors were red and white, I wanted to capture the theme of the team on the cover. The mountains also capture the maturation and growth of the team along with the long journey and challenge of the season. Finally, the mountains represent the Summit competition and the celebration of how far the team went in that competition. As you can see below, the logo for the competition is represented by mountains as well.

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I thought long and hard about the cover. The obvious choice was to put the team on the front cover to easily explain what the book is about. That would have been a simple choice, but as I explained in The Dad who wrote a book about Allstar Cheerleading I wanted to share a bit more and hopefully explain what Allstar cheer is about. The term “never judge a book by its cover” played a big role in why I changed the cover so many times before deciding on this one. You see at Summit last year Peppermint competed as a YOUTH level team.

When you judge a book by its cover you can be in for some big surprises. Similar to what is inside the book Welcome to Mintland. If you know anything about Cheer you know that Peppermint is known as a Mini age level team. You also know that at Summit, the youngest age group allowed is a Youth level. How did a Mini team end up in one of the most prestigious competitions in the nation competing as a Youth team? You will just have to read and find out! I hope to see many of you soon at ESPN Wide World of Sports for Summit. If you can dream it…. you can do it ..and Welcome to Mintland proves it!

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!