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?

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.

Welcome to Mintland Podcast – Chapters 1-3

Hey everyone. Well I have submitted the podcast to iTunes and Google Play and a few other publishers in hopes they approve it. It may take a few days to go through. 

Until then, here are the first few episodes. I promise to improve on the production. It will get better as I go. I have been testing a few tools to make transitions and mixes easier.  

After listening to the first episode my daughter Kaitlyn suggested I should share a little insight into each chapter before I read it. I thought it was a great idea! So I am going to do it! I was also thinking I might want to do a few interviews of the 2015 Peppermints and maybe some of the coaches, who knows where this will go.

Hope you enjoy the first couple of episodes. Barring any problems you should be able to subscribe on iTunes or Google Play in a few days. If you could rate the podcast that would be  huge help ( once on iTunes) My girls seem to really like the audio versions much better. Let me know if you have any suggestions. 

After this things should automatically update once you have subscribed to the podcast in iTunes or your favorite podcasting platform.

http://welcome-to-mintland.madewithopinion.com/welcome-to-mintland-chapter-1/

http://welcome-to-mintland.madewithopinion.com/welcome-to-mintland-chapter-2/

http://welcome-to-mintland.madewithopinion.com/welcome-to-mintland-chapter-3/

Cheerleading is an Olympic Sport – Now What?

Today the Cheer world received exciting news that it has been approved by the IOC to be included as an official Olympic Sport. You can view the official announcement here. What exactly does this mean? For the immediate future it means that ICU will receive funding for further development. Cheer is expected to be fully approved as an Olympic sport within 3 years. After that, the sport can be included in the Olympic Games. Will this happen in time for Tokyo 2020 ? Probably not. Might it happen in time for the potential bid cities that are applying for the Summer Games in 2024? (Los Angeles, Paris, Budapest) maybe!

You may have heard of the term the ICU ( International Cheer Union) it represents 110 member nations around the world. It is based in Memphis, TN the same city as one of your favorite cheer companies. The governing body is also been driven by a name in cheer you will recognize ( pstt it’s Varsity). If you are interested in learning what the Olympic cheer world will look like, I would invite you to visit the ICU site here. Notice many of the divisions look very similar to the current Allstar divisions. All of this is very exciting and the evolution of the sport will continue to evolve and grow.

PHOTO OF THE ICU WORLDS

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What does this mean for the average Allstar Cheerleader (Club Cheer as it is commonly referred outside the states)? Not much at this time. There will be quite a bit of work that needs to be done until we finally see the sport included in an Olympic program. The exciting news is that the dream is now alive for many young athletes who have sacrificed to be at the top of their game. There will be a new generation of athletes that will have a new vision. To not only be a World champion but also be a potential Olympic Champion!

If you do the math, if you have a tiny, mini or even a young youth athlete they could potentially be in an Olympic Games representing their country. Team USA along with tons of other countries currently have teams that compete on the international scale. They get some recognition now, but it will only escalate as awareness will now climb to new levels. On the worldwide scale if you search for the international teams you will find some absolutely mind blowing routines.

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Keep in mind the best of the best will be sought out to represent each country. The ICU worlds will be held in Orlando this year in April 2017 you can view the site for the Championships HERE.

The most common question that I have heard is, “Will this replace the Worlds that we all know and love?” The answer is no. Keep in mind Allstar Cheer is a business model. Similar to travel baseball, volleyball, soccer etc.. they are club sports. Allstar cheer will always have its own World Championship / Summit. Olympic Cheer will have teams represented from each of the ICU disciplines (which you can view on their site).

Could this affect my Allstar team in the future? Most likely not, unless you have an exceptional athlete that has made the Team USA, UK, etc… Keep in mind there is already a Team USA  UK  etc..and there has been one for years.

Today’s news of Cheerleading becoming an Olympic sport is extremely exciting, but keep in mind, it will not change much in the near future. To think that one of the children on our favorite tiny, mini or youth teams could potentially be in an Olympic games is pretty cool. The most exciting take away from this is that we can all feel validated that Cheerleading is now considered an Olympic Sport. We will now get the opportunity to educate others on how exciting and powerful our sport can be and we no longer have to defend to athletic prowess our teams have. Hold your head high, work your tail off and you could potentially be an Olympic Champion. HOW DOES THAT SOUND!!

 

 

 

The Stingray Allstars- 15 Year Tribute Video

When you step back and think of the thousands of lives The Stingray Allstars  program has touched over the past 15 years, it can be overwhelming. What started out as a vision, has turned into an amazing culture that feeds off of love, hard work, dedication, sacrifice, but most important family.

While it is true, the program has been blessed with amazing success on the mats. From top to bottom,  no matter the age group or level, the amazing leadership within the walls of Stingrays sets a tone for our athletes from tiny all the way through our worlds teams. It begins and ends with the leadership we are blessed with.

The coaches are too humble to take recognition and will pass the success on to the athletes and families. Out of respect for the coaches and entire staff, I will not single you out, but we thank you and appreciate everything you do for our children. The coaching and support staff of the gym sets an undeniable tone and an expectation to do your best at all times and do it with class. This expectation defines the Stingray culture and builds normal athletes into extraordinary young men and women. It makes our little gym in Marietta, Ga truly “One of a Kind”

While it is simply impossible to capture 15 years of amazing in 4:54 secs. I hope you enjoy the hype video. Let’s have a great year and may we always keep the Stingray culture alive. Here’s to the next 15 years. You may want to turn this video up!

I present the Stingray Allstars 15 Year Tribute Video