We all make mistakes.
We kicked off competition season yesterday in Moncton at Tidal Blast. Our athletes looked incredible in their classy new white, red and black Varsity uniforms, thanks to our top notch Total Spirit Rep, Cat! Our athletes had worked hard and were ready to hit their routines and show everyone how much they had improved since last season.
Unfortunately, it didn’t all quite work out the way we had planned. We brought four teams and not a single team hit ‘zero’ (for our non-cheer readers it means we made mistakes that got us deductions and also affected our technique scores). Our teams still looked really good (we came 3rd, 2nd, 2nd and 1st) but for some of our athletes, they knew it wasn’t their best and that just wasn’t acceptable to them.
It’s important to mention our Junior Pressure team came second and it was one of those seconds that felt as good as first (coaches – you know exactly what I mean!). They were our best Sky team of the day and I am SO proud of their performance. #NPNP. Our Black Out team’s tumbling was straight up gorgeous. Forecast had a floor time I wish I would’ve got on video so I could remember for a long time (thank you to all of the other teams supporting us and helping us build that momentum during your own floor time!) Midnight hit some ridiculously difficult skills in their stunt sections, regained composure after a very tough floor time and our first ever co-ed stunt hit, which I know was a ton of pressure for Avery and our Ellis.
See why we think pressure is important here.
Losing is not fun.
Can we just be real for a second? Losing… sometimes it sucks, right? It’s not fun to lose. If we’re being completely honest, Sky has had a very successful three seasons, so the experience of not having one single team ‘hit’ yesterday was a hard pill to swallow as a gym owner because I’ve seen them hit these routines multiple times. Some of our kids were heart broken and although they carried themselves well, I know them, and they were hurting. This made my heart hurt. Our teams didn’t come off the floor thinking ‘aww I shouldn’t have missed that practice’ or ‘I should’ve worked harder’. Our kids show up and work hard every practice. They deserved to hit and experience success based on that; however, this is real life and not everyone wins and life isn’t always fair.
Lose with grace.
We are now faced with two options: whine and make excuses, blame EPs, a long day, blame judges, bad weather, teenagers, etc. or we can simply do better next time. There is no one to blame here, this is no one’s fault. This is the name of our game. Sometimes you hit and win and sometimes you don’t. In 10 years there’s a good chance our athletes won’t remember this event but they will be greater and stronger because of it. It won’t define them or ruin their cheer experience. It’s a small moment and they’re so much bigger than these very small mistakes.
It’s a lot easier to be humble and a proud athlete when you win. It’s a lot easier to be proud of being a part of your gym when you win. Drop stunts you know you can hit, fall on tumbling passes you feel like you can do in your sleep, and it’s a lot harder to clap for your competition as they accept the first place award they very much deserve. This one’s important: we have to learn to accept defeat with grace. We have to be able to accept that we’ve made a mistake. We then need to know the circumstances we cancontrol going forward and what changes can be made to avoid those mistakes in the future.
Write that down. At no point did I suggest ranting and pointing fingers at everyone else in a Facebook post, an Instagram post, or a tweet. This isn’t acceptable as an athlete, a parent, a coach, or a gym owner. I could write a whole other post on this topic but I’ll save that for another time.
We, as a staff, have planned for the opportunity to ‘teach our kids how to lose’. We try to prep them and ourselves. Our athletes made me proud in how they handled themselves yesterday. They didn’t cry on the mat because things didn’t go how they wanted. They didn’t throw a tantrum and storm off the floor. They didn’t scream and blame each other. Instead they hugged each other, they leaned on each other. They looked disappointed sure, but at no point was I disappointed in them, I was just disappointed for them. Another important key factor to how this was all handled: their parents. They hugged their kids and told them they did good and said they were proud. They didn’t question them on why they didn’t stick their stunts or land that tumbling pass and they didn’t blame coaches or get upset. They supported them.
Yesterday, as a coach, I had that moment I dread. It’s that moment that makes you question your breakfast choice when your team sets for their first stunt and you just know by the look in their eyes they’re not sure. Coaches, have you ever been watching one of your teams but it’s not the team you know? We had that happen in floor time for one of our Sky teams. Our kids got in their own heads and thought they couldn’t do it. They doubted themselves and each other. There is no room for doubt in cheer and the Midnight coaches left no room for doubt in their routine. With ten more minutes I know I could’ve changed their mind set, but guess what? There is no ‘ten more minutes’. There is a schedule to follow. You get 15 minutes – that’s it. There was no second line we could pull up, there are no time outs and there is no ‘next period’. Floor time was over and they had the walk from floor time to the performance floor to pull themselves together. When things go wrong on the competition floor, you have seconds to recover or fall apart.
So, what do you do in this situation? We looked at our kids before they took the floor and said ‘its okay,’ because it was. ‘The worst thing that will happen is you’ll come second and your pride will be hurt. It’s okay.’ As a coach, it’s important we know when to lay on the pressure and push and when to back off. Some of our athletes were on the brink of tears. They didn’t need to be pushed, they needed support. Our only other option was to pull them and tell them they didn’t have to take the floor to protect them from what might happen. The toughest thing as a coach: we also need to know when to let our kids ‘fail.’
To clarify, our kids didn’t fail yesterday. They just did not meet their own standards and they didn’t perform their routine the way they know they can. I knew before they went out on the floor that there was a good chance this wasn’t going to go the way they wanted. If you’ve met them, you know they take pride in their skills, and they have extremely high standards. They care about technique scores and pointed toes. I love this about them. It has made them coachable because they tend not to push back when we’re hard on them. They want to be great and they appreciate those tough practices because they know it comes from a place of love. They have a fire in their bellies that makes them fierce competitors and some of the greatest kids and best teammates I’ve ever met.
Yesterday our athletes made mistakes. Making mistakes is O-K-A-Y! But making mistakes have consequences. As a coach and a parent this is a tough one. In the moment, seeing that look on their face, it’s hard not to jump in to protect them from that feeling, but we need to appreciate there is no better learning opportunity. They have to learn to cope and recover.
Hee’s one of my favorite posts by Justin Carrier of Varsity: I Hope You Lose.
Our kids need to learn to not get that job after they thought they nailed the interview and to still call and find out find why. Even though it’s hard to hear what you did wrong, or what you lack, it’s the only way to improve. They need to learn to cope and still walk with their heads held high when their hearts are broken, when people have broken their trust and to be disappointed with their placing after not hitting their routine. We need our athletes to learn to dig their heels in and show up to that next interview even more confident, to show up to practice and work harder, and to arrive in floor time sure. They need to be sure of their routine, sure of their teammates and most importantly of themselves. We cannot control everything (we all have moments where we struggle with this, *points at self*) so the quicker we accept what we can control, what we can fix or change, the quicker we change our mind set and we cope. It’s all about perspective and it all takes practice. You cannot learn to do this without experiencing it. I always say a great all-star cheerleader can make mistakes and recover REALLY quickly and not miss a beat! It takes quick hands, quick reactions and confidence. You have to be 100% sure.
Anyone who I’ve coached has heard me say ‘if you screw up and can’t recover, smile BIGGER.’ We get no ‘redo’s’ at competition and more often than not we do not get a redo in life experiences. We had an off day yesterday and we will own it. Life is tough and I want our athletes to be even more tough. I want them to be physically tough, but more important mentally tough – I want them to have grit.
I hope if your team didn’t have the performance you were hoping for yesterday that you get back in the gym this week and ask your coaches what you can do better. Get in classes, semi privates, support your teammates and work hard. Your coaches, no matter what gym you are from, gave you a routine they believe you can hit – prove them RIGHT!
Our Tidal Blast teams will take the performance mat again in 4 weeks and I cannot wait because they have so much to show to everyone!
‘Til next time,