• Erin Griffith

I am a CHEER MOM. Part 1

I never thought I those words would pass my lips. But my little girl decided last year that she wanted to do competitive cheer leading so here we are.

I want to get specific here, we do not do what we call "yelling cheer" at school where they yell and support a football or basketball team. We do All Star cheer, the dance/tumbling/stunting type of cheer where girls get thrown in the air, perform coordinated tumbling passes across the blue mat, and lift each other into the air in complex pyramids.

FYI The only reason many school teams do not do a lot of what we do is due to school liability. Some districts won't even let their cheerleaders tumble because of the potential liability - not a lack of talent. Lots of school teams have the ABILITY to do tumbling and stunting, but not the LIABILITY. Their teams are stacked with incredible tumblers and strong athletes (especially small schools like mine where kids play several different sports at the same time) Many school cheerleaders also do All Star cheer or some variation in tandem with their school cheer.

Anyway, I am not going to get up on a soapbox and get into the whole "cheerleading is/is not a sport" debate. If you have never seen a cheer competition or watched a three hour cheer practice, you should go and experience it. You definitely will not leave without a great deal of respect for the athletes. You will not leave thinking that "cheerleading is not a sport." You will also not leave without an understanding of why cheerleading is one of the most dangerous sports to participate in. Ask my daughter who has been dropped during a stunt before.

Anyway, my husband and I were looking for a sport for our 7 year old daughter, Abby, lovingly called "Crabby" in our house, to participate in. There were a few things we were looking for...

1. She needed to be coached.

This seems like a "duh" kind of requirement. I mean, what sport does not have a "coach?" But our desire was that Crabby be "coachable." Being a coachable kid does not come naturally. Being coachable is taught by parents and nutured by coaches. Unfortunately for my kiddos, neither of their parents are athletes, so our experience is limited and we knew we would have to lean on athletic coaches heavily to help us develop this trait in our kids.

We often see in high school athletics that there are kids that are not coachable, they have either been told that they are really good at their sport their entire career and they refuse to take constructive criticism or seek further opportunities for growth because in their young minds, they are already the best. Or we see kids who don't know how to take constructive criticism and end up leaving a sport because their coach is "mean" or "doesn't understand them" and often the parents will say that their child's failure is the "coaches fault" Don't get me wrong, there are bad coaches out there, but more often than not, the problem is that the kid doesn't understand HOW to be coached.

Many coaches (including Crabby's cheer coaches) love their players, but it is a tough love. It is a love build on the idea of growth...the idea that they can always be improving their skills. They never say things like "you are the best." Instead, they emphasize growth and continued improvement. There is no designated "end point" to the skills.

It took Crab a whole cheer season to really become "coachable." Because she didn't know how to do everything right away and that made her think she wasn't good enough.

We heard a lot of "I can't do it" and "I'm not as good as every one else" Eric and I kept reminding her that some of the other girls had been doing this since they were her age and worked hard and that is what she was going to have to do as well.

When she wanted to quit because she thought it was too hard, we said no. We told her that she can't quit because something is hard, you embrace it because it is hard.

We heard a lot of the coach or the other girls are "mean" - when none of those people are even close to being "mean" spirited people. We told her that there is a difference between being mean and asking you to do what you are supposed to do.

I see the growth in her this year. The way she works and works at things. The way she looks at her coaches and the older girls. Her attentiveness. Her perseverance. Her desire to grow, not win. Often her team will get 3rd place or below, but she still comes running up to me and says, "but we improved our score by 2.5 points!"

She so much more coachable this year. And we are so proud.

Check out: I am a cheer mom Part 2

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