Good Cheer Memory

This post is all about one really special memory I have from my days coaching an all star program.  To set the stage properly, this was a program I started up 3 years earlier.  We had 1 girl come to our first tryout.  We kept trying and we wound up with a single team of 25 girls by the end of the year.  We competed 3 times and I don’t know if we ever finished better than last place.

The next 2 years we grew pretty steadily, adding a junior and youth team to the program.  By the end of our 3rd year, we were pretty much winning all of the local competitions in most divisions.  We were still small with under 100 athletes altogether.  But we had a real good family atmosphere.  Our kids were having fun.  There was a lot of parent support.  I was proud of where we were and felt like we had the foundation to make a big leap forward.

During that offseason, I had the opportunity to hire a couple of really strong coaches in the area that had a lot of pull in the cheerleading community.  We also used some very aggressive promoting strategies, including heavy recruitment of some very athletic guys.  Making a long story short, everything came together perfectly.  We wound up more than doubling our numbers, taking around 225 kids, including 14 guys for a senior coed team.  I’m pretty sure that was the first “real” coed all star team in the area.  We probably should have been concerned about the fact that only 2 of the guys had ever cheered in their lives.  But for whatever reason, we just didn’t let that bother us.  We literally started the first day of practice teaching the guys how to clap and do high V’s.

The specific story I am wanting to tell happened in the middle of the season, but I am going to tell you quickly about the beginning and the end first.  It will make sense when you get to the end of the post.

Having a bunch of complete rookie guys, it took forever to teach them how to understand a simple 8 count.  Frankly, some of them never got it and we had to just hide them as much as we could.  We were so far behind that the coed team completely skipped our first competition because they were nowhere near ready.  It was a great surprise that every one of them came to the competition to support the rest of the program.  Talk about great attitudes.  We brought them to the next competition which was about 4 weeks later.  Again, we were way behind.  I had to actually teach them the last 8 8-counts, which was a pyramid, in the warm-up room.  For the record, I now understand that this is HORRIBLE coaching.  I know much better now, but back then, I was still figuring stuff out.  Anyway, we finally got on a roll.  We went to Nationals and competed against 4 other large coed teams, 2 of which we had competed against and lost to earlier in the year.  We wound up nailing our routine and the crowd loved it.  I hadn’t seen our competition perform because I was just too busy.  Our program had become quite a handful compared to previous years.  So I was completely caught off guard when our little coed team with virtually no experience won the division.  Not only did they win, they dominated!  It was quite the celebration.  However, that is not my proudest moment from the season for that team…

My proudest moment for them came about 2 months earlier.  We still hadn’t had a really great performance.  Also, we were trying to add some much harder skills, full up’s instead of straight ups, rewinds in our pyramid, layout fulls in our baskets.  We had been practicing all of those upgrades for a while but had not competed them yet.  With Nationals looming just a couple of months away, we decided to go ahead and shoot the moon and put everything in the routine.

We were having a pretty good warm-up.  Everyone was feeling good and we were ahead of schedule on our mat time.  For whatever reason, I still have no idea why, one of our guys asked me, “What happens if our music turns off?”  Somehow, it had never occurred to me to tell this group of brand new cheerleaders what to do.  I kind of laughed about it and pulled everyone together for a huddle.  I gave my usual pep talk and then added, “By the way, just so you know, if the music should ever go out while you are competing, just start counting out loud and keep going.”

It’s obvious where this is going.  Sure enough, maybe 30 seconds into the routine, the music started skipping and coach running the CD turned it off.  Our team did not miss a beat.  I don’t think anyone even flinched.  And as the team started counting louder, you could hear the audience, almost none of which was for our program, began counting with them.  By the end, the counting was a roar.  They performed the routine perfectly.  They wound up earning the highest score of any cheer team for the day (losing grand champion honors to a dance team, which I think is completely bogus, but whatever).  Needless to say, I was very, very proud of how the team responded.

One more item to share.  After the competition, the guy who asked me what to do if the music went out came up and asked me if I cut the music on purpose to test the team and see if they were paying attention.  I laughed out loud!  New guys are so much fun!

Anyway, the whole year with that team was a lot of fun.  That is a memory that will always be very special to me.

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