I started cheerleading during my freshman year of high school. Let’s be clear about one thing though, I didn't do it because I loved my school, or the athletic opportunities that cheerleading offered, I did it as a fight or flight response. You see, I went to a small private, Christian school, and within my first year I realized that my options were; 1. Join a sport, or 2. Have no friends. Our tiny grade had cheerleaders, athletes, and artists. I am not talented or creative enough to join the emo/artist crew, I have little to no coordination, and running makes me feel like I’m dying, so cheer it was.
So, as a 15ish year old with no prior cheerleading experience, a friend and I joined a local cheer gym’s beginner cheer class. We learned A LOT, we spent two nights a week at the gym learning basics and conditioning for sophomore year try-outs at our respective schools. To my excited surprise, that year I made the junior varsity squad, but not the competition squad yet, I went through a few months of practice before my coach gave me the news that I would indeed be competing that New Years! I continued cheering and competing until I graduated high school. What was once just a mechanism to make it in a small, cliquey class, became something I loved, and it was the foundation of friendships I still have today.
I think what made my experiences so meaningful to me was the coaches that lead the way for me. My JV coach was a spunky little blonde math legend. She had the energy and the faith that excited my inexperienced cheer heart. We had pre-game days in her classroom, where she put up with 17 loud girls and helped us with math when we needed it. Her along with the other blonde coach, the varsity coach (who is now my principal) were like real-life DCC coaches. They were serious but loving. Those years, we were national champions in our division, and we loved every minute of it. My senior year the legendary blonde coaches stepped down from coaching, and we got a new coach, little did I know this coach would coach me through my first time as a coach. These ladies helped set the precedents for how I am going to coach my own squad.
I’ve learned so much this year as an elementary school coach, and it’s only been three months. Here are some of my takeaways so far.
- If you say you’ll do something, keep your word. It is so important to be a steady role model in your teams' life, don't back out.
- ORGANIZE OR DIE. Every detail needs to be organized, whether it be money, schedules, who is providing water bottles, or uniforms.
- Set clear goals for the team, and the parents! Your team cannot be somebody’s something to do when they are bored, a team is a team and there is commitment required.
- DON’T ASSUME ANYTHING. If you aren’t the one placing orders or checking on money, don’t expect someone else to do it. Check up on things and be persistent.
- Love what you do, or don’t even try. The team and the parents can tell if you are having fun and if you are passionate just as easily as they can tell if you are miserable. If you are having a good time, chances are your team will try harder and have fun doing it!
As I go into my very first competition season, I am so nervous, but I am also very optimistic. I have a squad of six dedicated girls, and families. I also have a mentor who is walking me through everything, even though she did not technically sign on to do so. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I feel so blessed to be where I am, and I am truly home!
- Emily M.