A long time ago at a junior high far far away I was a cheerleader.
To my recollection, participating in cheer was not my parents’ fave choice of mine (they were bigger fans of my clarinet playing talents).
And, to be candid, I don’t remember it being a favorite choice of mine either.
It was fun, it was fine, I moved on to different activities after one season (drill team among other eclectic pursuits).
I vaguely recall boisterous bus rides to away games. I have a few memories of pyramids and sleepovers. I clearly remember how, when we needed a parent-coach or there wouldn’t be a squad, my friend Lauren’s mom agreed to fill the position.
Spoiler alert: We took Lauren’s mom for granted.
Commitment not involvement is key.
I had no intention of getting involved in the Child’s cheer’perience. The morning of sign-ups the Husband & I told her about our separation. She was excruciatingly sad. I was extraordinarily not myself. She and I attended the meeting and cried off & on throughout. Post-session they informed us 14 girls signed up and nary a mom had stepped forward to coach. No coach. No squad.
Guess which red-eyed Mama concluded she knew little but loved her kid a lot? I agreed to coach, but in my mind I agreed to be involved.
Plan, show up, be physically present, depart, repeat.
To my chagrin (initially anyway), the first squad meeting made it clear, in order to be successful, I’d need to be fully committed.
From boot camp to practice. From competition to daily lives. If the goal was girls who performed as a unit then I’d need to be ham and not eggs.
I’d need not to coach because no one else had time.
I’d need to coach because I was all-in-loved-the-girls-planned-to-leave-it-all-on-the-field-no-matter-what-was-happening-in-my-noncoaching-life committed.
Tween girls do not mean drama.
We underestimate our kids and especially our girls. When I agreed to coach I expected the worst.
I braced for in-fighting and gossip (admittedly I’ve seen too many teen-cheer movies). From our first group ice breaker to final competition day the 14 were unflaggingly supportive of each other. Not only did new friendships evidence themselves on the field–they blossomed off-turf, too. The girls supported and encouraged each other during school and other extra-curricular activities.
Admittedly this girl squad connection was both good and bad. The 14 chatted a LOT when together (cue shouts of 1, 2, 3! EYES ON ME!), but I happily handled that versus dealing with bullying or girl-drama.
When you’re lost a smile shifts everything.
On some level I’d already known this. On all levels I’d fleetingly forgotten.
Bigger than fake it till you make it and more important than what Annie says me coaching cheer (& spending time with 14 confident, self-possessed girls) taught me a lesson I needed to relearn. Whether sideline cheers, halftime dancing or navigating life 2.0 (aka newly separated mama) a smile changes everything.
I adored watching the Child perform. The child, given the fact it’s her first season, was definitely not the best on squad. The child, however, was one of the biggest smilers in the group. Frequently lost, sporadically stumped, consistently dimple-flashing, everything shifted.
If you bounce back people forget your fall.
Prior to coaching I’d not heard the word stunting used other than as an indication of stoppage of growth. The 14 used this term repeatedly throughout each meeting and practice. Stunting was a prime focus for them and two syllables which stuck terror into the heart of CoachMama.
I had no clue how to teach/execute stunts (we summoned an expert for initial instruction).
I saw how, even with their massive amounts of enthusiasm, stunting was not the squad’s strong suit.
I witnessed how any time a cheerleader faltered or fell she immediately bounced back and tried again.
Inside gym for practices. Outside school in small group sessions. On the field at half-time. The girls stunted, wobbled, bounced back, continued. They fell down seven times and got up eight.
At season’s culmination (unlike the tween movies) stunting still was not our biggest strength. In the end, however, all any of us remembered/saw was how swiftly the squad all rebounded.
In the end, as with all good stories but not always in life, I enjoyed coaching and learned more from the the girls than they did from me.
Would I do it again? Probably.
Will the Child do it again? I have no idea.
Am I reminded daily of lessons learned from the not-yet-teens as I struggle to navigate my new life? ABSOLUTELY.
- Have you discovered we underestimate the wisdom and maturity of our kids?
- When was the last time you found yourself an almost-accidental-volunteer?
Bea saysNovember 13, 2017 at 5:14 am
I’m working the smile thing in my life every damn day right now.
Coco saysNovember 13, 2017 at 5:52 am
I love hearing that the girls were so supportive and enthusiastic. I’m sure the coach helped foster a nurturing environment. 😉
Wendy saysNovember 13, 2017 at 6:37 am
Go Carla! Go Carla! Go Carla!
messymimi saysNovember 13, 2017 at 7:26 am
When my older kids were in baseball, no one stepped forward to teach the 3-5 year-olds t-ball. Guess who ended up being the t-ball coach?
We learned it’s more important to keep your eye on the ball and give it a good, solid whack than to actually be concerned with where it is going to go, at least at first. Once you get to where you aren’t afraid of the ball, and are willing to swing at it, then you can start learning to aim.
We learned which direction to run the bases. Running the wrong way won’t get you where you want to go.
We learned to cheer for each other and be as happy about someone else’s success as about our own.
It’s cliche but true, you always learn more from teaching.
Leanne | www.crestingthehill.com.au saysNovember 13, 2017 at 7:47 am
cheerleading is so out of my realm of context Carla – it’s not something we have much of here in Australia – although I have enjoyed watching all those “Bring It On” type movies over the years. I do enjoy reading the lessons you learn from every new encounter – always so positive!
Renee saysNovember 13, 2017 at 8:06 am
Carla, you are brave! I did the cheer coaching thing too as there was no one else to do it… was me or no cheer team. At least you were a cheer leader….not me…I would never have done that….Oh how we change when it comes to our kids…LOL…
jen saysNovember 13, 2017 at 9:17 am
First of all, trying to wrap my head around you as a cheerleader – awesome because you are a people cheerleader. BTW, your “people forget the fall if you bounce back” header reminds me of what I tell my kids — it doesn’t matter if you fall, it matters how well you back back up.
Haralee saysNovember 13, 2017 at 9:20 am
Good for you! Good for the team!You did not mention other parent drama on your coaching so you know you did it right and the other Moms were grateful!
Jenn Kimens saysNovember 13, 2017 at 4:42 pm
I’ve found that smile is the best remedy ever invented. It has some magic effect…Smile and think positive!
Cherylann saysNovember 14, 2017 at 9:15 am
I co-coached a girls cross country team on year and then found myself continuing the next 6 years solo after a full day of work. When parents began to fail to pick their kids up after practice or weekend meets (“MY” girls won the city-wide trophy the last year I coached) I called it quits. No one else stepped up. It was sad, but it wasn’t a job I could do by myself anymore and putting kids in my vehicle to get them home wasn’t something I wanted to risk. I always told my girls to participate in a sport where someone else was cheering FOR you…and then when you got to the finish line you CHEER for your team mates behind you. We had a great 7 years….some kids even moved on later to participate in triathlons when they were older. Made me very happy!
Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table saysNovember 16, 2017 at 12:35 pm
I’m totally impressed you took this on! I did one season of cheer… I was HORRIBLE! I have two left feet and can’t tell left from right. It was a disaster.
These lessons are great ones. I love how resilient the squad is!