Opportunities, Sharing, Happy Endings, and Other Cheerleading Related Ramblings

I know, I know… It has been a while. I have had so many ideas and thoughts to ponder recently that I have actually been avoiding this because I’m not sure how to categorize all of these events! But, I figure I better get some of these thoughts out BEFORE I have this baby or else they might get lost in the never, never land of motherhood

Almost 4 weeks ago now, my cheer and dance team held their second annual dance recital, “Stand Up, Stand Out”. To be honest, I am not sure how I managed to escape that day without going into labor. Thankfully there were a few parents and students who stepped in to help. Of course, I have an awesome assistant coach, too! Looking back, I am not sure how the day could have went any smoother. I have a student teacher this semester, so I was lucky enough to have most of the school day to prepare for the event.

The recital went off without a hitch. The girls nailed their routines, they loved their awards, and we all had a blast! We all lived happily, ever after. The End.

Stand Up, Stand Out Dance Recital 2016

Who am I kidding? I like to talk wayyy too much to let that be the end of my story here. I want to share some of the nitty, gritty details with my awesome friends and family who haven’t gotten to live through some of my wonderful coaching adventures!

I really thought that by year three that this whole coaching thing would get easier. In some ways it really has, but in others it really hasn’t. This year, so way back in August, we started with 20 girls and 1 guy on our team. HOLAY! I know. I was stoked. Anyone who knows anything about anything in cheer knows that you can do a lot of cool stuff with that many people. Too bad that cheerleading is really hard and requires a crap load of time and commitment and dedication which has  apparently has been lost on this generation of kiddos. Sad.

Football Season 2015

Our numbers very slowly started to dwindle. By the end of football season, I think we were down to about 15. Not bad and lots of hope left! And then things started to get a little weird. Since we are a 7-12 team, the middle school students can usually do cheer/dance as well as whatever middle school sport is going on at that time with little to no conflict. However, this means that we have to practice late ALWAYS because it would apparently cause the town to burn if someone had to wait for us for once…. Anyways, we were gearing up for high school basketball season  and the deal is that after Christmas, we no longer have to practice so late because middle school girls’ sports are over by Christmas time. By this time, the high school girl’s basketball team got into a crunch of their own with numbers because guess what? Basketball also takes time, and commitment, and dedication… Say WHAT?!. So, the solution was that they needed the 7th & 8th grade basketball players to fill in their team. This was an okay decision and one that I completely understood. It also put me and my assistant coach in a tough spot.We knew that we had 5 or 6 girls that would really want to play high school basketball and it’s not hard to understand that it would be very difficult to play high school basketball and cheer for high school basketball at the same time. Also, the practice times would be even more conflicting. We were already practicing until 7 PM. So, we lost 5 in one shot to basketball. Unfortunately, our kids had to make a choice between teams. I don’t like to do that to kids, but I also know that it is a good lesson. It was probably a good lesson in patience and understanding for me, too. I think that took us down to about 10 in numbers. Add in a couple other ridiculous accounts of irresponsibility and lack of dedication, we finished the season with 7 girls and 1 boy.

A baby shower hosted by these amazing individuals

To most, this probably seems like no big deal because 1. its cheerleading and dance and 2. we are a small school and we should feel lucky to even have a team at all. I see where you could be coming from, but for those 8 kids to see their team fall apart all year and continuously put it back together was hard and for the most part, unnecessary.

For the 8 kids who showed up every single day and worked tremendously hard for their team, I have nothing but admiration, respect, and love. These are the kids who will make things happen in the world. That might seem like a corny thing to say, but remember, something like cheerleading in a small school is “of the students, FOR the students”. Everything that they pour their hearts into, is generally for someone else. They give and give and give some more to a mass of people and peers that don’t appreciate it. (I am trying really hard not to go on a rampage right now and call names. The hormones are begging to be released. ha!) Anyways, my point is that the world better just watch out for those kids because they are gonna set the damn world on fire someday.

At our recital, it is kind of part of my job to make a “speech” at some point in the evening. I remember last year that my speech was fun and uplifting and full of hope for the future. This year was only slightly different. About a week before the recital, I made an extremely difficult announcement to my team and I decided to share that announcement at the recital. With parenting comes sacrifices, and with a lot a thought and reflection I have decided that it is time to hang up my coaching hat. Thankfully, my kids had a heads up because I really could not have handled the emotions in front of a big crowd. (oofta that was a rough practice)   There were a few other highlights to my thoughts that night that I would like to share here.

Friday Night View- Football Season 2015

When I set out to start a cheer and dance program 3 years ago, it really had very little to do with cheer and dance. I mean, I have a lifetime of experience in those things and I love them and I want to share them, but that’s not really what any of this was about. To me, this is about opportunity. (ahem, Uncle Richard, are you paying attention?) Cheerleading is SO much more than just standing on the side line and yelling, stomping, clapping, dancing and stunting. I believe it is about spirit and pride, and not only in your school but in everything that you do. Cheerleading is about having a vision for your school and community and  uniting people for betterment of the whole. Contrary to idiotic belief, cheerleading offers an array of life skills. I can say with absolute faith that when these kids are ever faced with a situation where odds are stacked against them, or they have to defend themselves or others, or have a dream or vision to share… They will conquer and thrive and do it in a most respectable way. They just will. I am not saying that these attributes can not be acquired through many other activities, but why not offer one more opportunity to young people?  A year ago, I watched cheerleading change the lives of 12 girls, 2 teams from different schools who had dreams and visions for their school and achieved them through KINDNESS and UNDERSTANDING. These are the kinds of people that the world needs and the kind that I want to say I had a part in sharing with the world.

McLaughlin Cheer Team & Newell Cheer Team- Two Teams, One Vision- 2015

Whew! I made it through all of those thoughts. If you made it this far, congratulations to you too! 🙂 Pregnant rambling is a real thing!

Because we are hilarious…

Oh! One more short story I have to share!

The cheer and dance team works extremely hard all year for everyone but themselves. Our recital at the end of the year is the ONE THING that they get to do for themselves to celebrate their accomplishments and skills. You would think that there would be a mass of students, teachers and community members flocking to this event in appreciation of these kids’ support all year. Fat chance in this inward shooting community…. (oops) Anyways, while I was making my speech, I was scanning the crowd in hopes to make eye contact with as many young people that I could and I just happened to see a high school girl’s basketball player sitting up in the corner of the bleachers mostly by herself. She didn’t have any sisters or relation on my team and she isn’t really best friends with anyone on my team and I don’t really know her that well either. For a split second I just made a tiny mental note that she was there and I thought it was cool. Fast forward to the end of the show…. This girl walks straight up to me, gives me a giant hug and says, “Story, we are gonna miss ya. Thank you for everything you have done for our school and for our team. Some of us really do appreciate it even if we are pains sometimes.” With tears in my eyes, I thanked her for coming.  She responded, “Of course! You guys bust your butts all year for us, it was the least I could do.”  I watched her walk away and hug several other girls and I hope that she shared some of those same thoughts with them too. It was such a small moment, but it was a complete affirmation for me, an “I’m okay” and “I did it.” moment. Sure it was only one kiddo, but… It only takes one person sometimes.

Taurie Collins- If you stumble across this someday, Thank you.

Leadership Award Recipient- Miss Marlee

In three years I have had the amazing gift of coaching 32 awesome young people. It doesn’t matter if it was the first season, one season, or the last season… It was a gift. Thank you for letting me be a part of your life and most importantly, thank you for being a part of mine.