Cake or pie?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I used to coach an all-girl all star cheerleading squad. If you are completely unfamiliar with the cheer world, all star programs have proliferated in the past 10-15 years. It's basically the same thing as a travel team in soccer, it's a bunch of kids from different schools that cheer on a team outside of their schools' cheerleading programs, which they may or may not participate in as well. On the whole, the talent level and dedication on all star teams is somewhat higher than those for most, but not all, school cheerleading programs. I know that is a huge generalization, but there are definitely exceptions to that, i.e. incredibly talented and dedicated school programs.

The main difference is that the focus in all star cheerleading is competition, compared to the focus for school teams is promoting school spirit and cheering on teams at games. Competition is a possible pursuit for schools to consider outside of and after those primary goals. All star teams practice with one goal in mind, which is to compete. The program I coached for, which is now defunct/was absorbed by another program, generally focused on no more than 1 competition per month, with the major ones near the end of the season. The season in all star cheerleading is essentially year-round, with tryouts for most programs in April or May, practices through the summer, and finally the arrival of the fall season marks the start of the "competition season."

I'm sorry for all that exposition if you already knew all that! Anyway, as you may or may not realize, coaching, providing guidance for and at times trying to corral teenaged girls is no small feat. One year, I had to sit them down for a "heart-to-heart" kind of chat because I had perceived I wasn't getting their best effort. I made an agenda, which I found just now as I was cleaning out old files and storage, with a list of "business" to discuss with the team. They were all good kids, but at the time they were playing around too much, not applying themselves (God, I am starting to sound really old) and like I said, I wasn't pleased with it. I admit I was partially to blame as well for not providing more structure, guidance and direction. I wrote down the "business" as bullet points to flesh out in our little "heart-to-heart." In hindsight, maybe it was a little tough love-ish but I think they respected me more for it in the end.

This was my "philosophy" or the "business" I had listed:
1) The difference between arrogance and ignorance.
2) Commitment (huge).
3) Impatience/self-importance
4) Omitted.
5) Let Jen do it. [Note: Jen was a workhorse on the team, she did everything asked, she did it well, and she did it without complaining.]
6) Why are you here?
7) Excuses?
8) Corrections
9) Putting the team before yourself.
10) Do something with your whole heart or don't do it.
11) One drop of poison in a well kills the entire village. [Note: I was trying to stress having a positive attitude, pulling for each other, etc.]
12) Expectations
13) Value of hard work. "Do you think it's luck when teams hit their routines? It's hard work."
14) Limitations - we don't limit what you're capable of, you do it to yourself.
15) Faith - believe in your abilities.
16) Comparisons - don't worry about what other teams are doing.
17) Let things bother you. Take it seriously when something isn't working out. Don't get frustrated though, get some perspective, ask for help.
18) I'm never disappointed in how you do unless you're disappointed in yourself.
19) What are you doing today that makes you a better member of this team?
20) It should be fun, but it's only possible to have fun when you're taking care of business. Take care of business before business takes care of you.
21) Need to be detail-oriented. It's the little things that separate good teams from great teams.
22) When we laugh, it's usually at my expense, but occasionally it's really at yours. It's okay to laugh. :)

There is a lot of overlap between some of the points, but that was because those in particular were the ones that I wanted to hammer home the hardest, which was to dedicate yourself to it, do the best you can, not worry about everybody else, try to continually improve your skill set, and last but not least to have fun doing it.

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