Assistant Coach Probs.

Okay, one of the coaches that I work under is a know-it-all. The problem is that she knows very little. Basically, she’s one of the “problem coaches” that I think are a big factor behind all the cheer injuries out there. I’m surprised no one on our squad has gotten seriously hurt.

She can whip up amazing choreography like it’s nobody’s business and put a great stunt sequence together. The problem is her tumbling. Her tumbling experience ends at a round-off. Despite this, she thinks it’s okay to try to teach girls how to do back handsprings, tucks, and layouts. She also thinks she knows more about tumbling than me, even though I can actually tumble.

If I’m spotting a back handspring, she’ll try to give me pointers or ask me to move so that she can spot instead. Sure, that’s fine. What really kills me is that she encourages girls to throw tricks that they are not at all ready to do on their own. Because she doesn’t know how to tumble, she can’t recognize what is and is not good form. Even worse, a girl will barely have a back handspring with two strong spotters, and she’ll convince her that she can do it on her own. The girl will try it with no spots and fall flat on her face.

Every practice I’m waiting for one of these girls to snap a wrist or sprain their neck. I don’t understand what she thinks she’s doing. Even if these girls don’t get hurt, she’s scaring them half to death, so that they psych themselves out every time they try to throw a skill.

She’s a know-it-all and you can’t tell her anything she doesn’t already know. So, for now, the best I can do is follow behind her and clean up her mess.


Cheer Discrimination in High Schools

I saw a news piece on cheerleading injuries last night on TV. The newscaster mentioned that 29 states’ high school athletic associations recognize cheerleading as a sport. My state is not one of them.

The high school I went to does not recognize cheerleading as a sport. It’s considered a “club.” Cheerleading is listed in the yearbook right between chess club and choir. Frankly, it’s insulting.

I have 3 big problems with this:

#1. Cheerleading is a sport (over half the states agree). Go watch a cheerleading practice and tell me otherwise. When you work hard and leave your sweat and blood on the mat every practice, it’s a complete slap in the face to be told that you aren’t “by definition” an athlete. According to the school, you’re no more an athlete than the kids in chess club. Ouch.

#2. If a state’s high school athletic association doesn’t consider cheerleading to be a sport, then there can’t be any safety procedures or limitations that are uniformly enforced. And until that happens, there will continue to be an absurd number of unnecessary cheerleading injuries.

#3. Because cheerleading isn’t technically a sport, the cheerleading program is treated like a nuisance by the schools. My younger sister is a varsity cheerleader at the high school I went to. She has to fundraise her butt off every season because the school provides absolutely zero funding to the cheerleading program.

We just had astro-turf installed on our football field—it cost over a million dollars and the football players didn’t have to fundraise for a single dollar of it. The cheerleaders had to fundraise for over a year to get enough money to buy themselves new practice mats. The old mats were crappy and unsafe. If a flyer fell on those mats, it would be no better than falling on the hardwood floor. When the school was asked if they would contribute any money, their response was “well, if the mats are unsafe, then don’t do any stunts.” Seriously?!

I mean, the examples here go on and on… If the softball team needs new equipment, the school pays; if the cheerleaders need new uniforms, they have to raise the money. If the volleyball team’s nets are looking a little ragged, the school pays; if the cheerleaders need new poms, they have to come up with the money. Not to sound like a crybaby, but it’s unfair and ridiculous.

It’s a dangerous game we play.

It’s time to address a serious topic.

Cheerleading is a dangerous sport. That’s a fact. According to CBS News and the US Sports Academy, cheerleading is the 2nd most dangerous sport, second only to football. Cheerleading accounts for 66% of “catastrophic injuries” in female athletes, which means injuries to the spine, neck, and head. Last year, there were 37,000 emergency room visits by cheerleaders.

With cheerleading being the most popular sport for girls, and over 3 million cheerleaders age 6+ in the US, this is a huge problem. Like I mentioned a few posts ago, cheerleading isn’t just “Go, fight, win!” on the sidelines anymore. Competitive cheerleading is an intense sport. Injuries abound when you’re doing things like jumping, tumbling, and stunting.

When cheer squads are throwing crazy stunts like the one above (notice the two girls on the ends, diving head first toward the ground), is it any surprise that there are so many injuries??

The sad reality of cheerleading is that you’re going to get hurt—there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. During my cheer career, I fractured my nose, dislocated my hip, broke more fingers than I can remember, sprained my ankle and wrists, jammed elbows and fingers—I can’t even count the number of bloody noses, goose eggs, and bruises I came home with. 7 years after retiring from cheerleading, I’m still feeling the effects of it. Even as a coach, I’m still getting injured—I have a sprained wrist as I write this.

The worst part is, I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones. I’ve seen girls snap their ankles during tumbling passes, back spots have belly button rings ripped out of their stomachs, and flyers smash their heads on the mat.

(Um, is it just me or does she look like she’s still cheering?)

So, what’s the problem? I think that the biggest problem is that many coaches have no idea what they’re doing. A lot of them are former cheerleaders, and they assume that they know what they’re doing—but guess what, cheerleading is nothing today like it was 10 or 20 years ago.

Coaches are having girls throw stunts when they don’t understand the proper form and technique. They’re not teaching it correctly and they aren’t taking enough precautions. Even great coaches, however, can’t guarantee that their cheerleaders aren’t going to get hurt. Accidents happen.

I think it’s safe to say that stunts are the biggest cause of injury. Though they’re often hurt, flyers aren’t the only ones that get injured. According to the US Sports Academy, the impact that bases experience as they catch their flyer is greater than the impact of being tackled by a professional football player. If you’re a base, you’re going to get hurt whether or not you do your job. If you don’t do your job, you’re going to get hurt. If you do your job as a base, guess what—you’re still going to get hurt. You know why? Because out of the 4 or 5 girls in your stunt group, there’s always at least one girl who isn’t going to do her job correctly.

Even if you don’t get seriously injured during your cheer career, it’s likely that you will feel the painful effects of cheerleading as you get older. Unfortunately, this is something that I know all about. As a result of being a base for many years, I have carpal tunnel in both wrists and a pre-arthritic right elbow. From years of high impact jumping and tumbling, and from absorbing the impact of flyers while basing, I suffer from cartilage loss, inflammation, and constant pain in both knees.

Now, I’m not talking slap on a knee brace and some Icy Hot and it’s all okay kind of pain. I’m talking can’t walk a mile without my knee swelling up like a balloon and being couch-ridden the rest of the day, probably going to need a knee replacement in my 30s, my 80 year old grandma’s joints are in better condition than mine kind of pain.

Taking the aftereffects into consideration, would I join a different sport if I could go back in time? No way, I wouldn’t change a thing. My only regret is that my body wouldn’t let me cheer even longer. However, it would’ve been nice if someone would’ve told me that these things could eventually happen as a result of the stress cheer puts on your body.

Newsflash: You look like an idiot.

I recently stumbled upon this on Pinterest:

Well, my friends… not only do you feel stupid when you make cheer facials, you also look stupid.

*Gasp* Did a cheer coach just admonish the use of facials?! Why yes, yes, I did. I hated facials when I was a cheerleader and I hate them even more as a coach. In my opinion, a nice toothy smile is enough–there is no need for absurd facial expressions.

Facials do not make you look spirited. They do not make you look cute. They do not make you look like you have an attitude. They make you look like a moron.

Do you disagree with me? Well, then take a look at these pictures of the most common cheer facials.

I think that this picture speaks for itself, but I’ll comment on it anyway. The “cheer smile.” Wow, that sure is adorable, isn’t it? No, it most certainly is not. It makes you look like a psychotic horse. Or someone who is super excited that they just got their braces removed.

Oh, boy. Where do I begin with this one? I think the center cheerleader is using what it probably the most common facial, which I call “the shocker.” I understand this facial, because you think it says, “Wow, aren’t you amazed that I just did that sweet stunt/tumble pass/whatever?!” In reality, it looks like you just found out that your favorite TV show has been canceled.

The girl to the left, of course, is doing the classic “winky face.” You don’t look sassy; you look like a bug just flew into your eye.

And, last but not least, the girl in the center back is doing the “kissy face.” No one will want to kiss you with that expression on your face, sweet pea. You look like a duck who just ate a War Head.

Sometimes, you’ve gotta be a cheertator.

I’ve been assistant coaching for nearly ten years. In that time, I’ve encountered several cheerleaders with bad attitudes. Their bad behavior is usually limited to minor things, like having trouble paying attention or being an “I can’t” girl. I have never had any serious behavioral issues… but I should have known that was too good to be true.

This season, I encountered my first really bad kid. She was like every behavioral problem rolled into one girl. She was a back talking, eye rolling, daydreaming, defiant know it all. At first, I didn’t know what to do with her.  I didn’t want to single her out and embarrass her, so I ignored her incessant eye-rolling and huffing. Eventually, I got sick of it… At first, I just verbally called her out. When I realized that wasn’t working, I started making her run every time she had a bad attitude (she was running every practice). Nothing worked, and I was out of ideas, because I had never dealt with this sort of problem before.

Then, two weeks before competition, I saw her do the unthinkable. She turned into a bully. I watched her shove another girl as they stood in line.

I just about lost it. I can put up with a lot of things, but abusing a teammate is something I have zero tolerance for. I stopped practice and made her apologize to her teammate. Then, I swore to her that I would not hesitate to kick her off my team if I ever saw her bully another teammate again. Could I actually kick her off? Well, no, I couldn’t kick a girl off my team because of company policy—but she didn’t need to know that. Surprisingly, it worked. She’s been as sweet as can be since then.

I guess some girls prefer a cheertatorship to a cheerocracy. (;

The Age Old Debate – Is Cheerleading a Sport?

I love when people tell me that cheerleading isn’t a sport. Now, I’m not one of those crazies that will freak out about it, but I will probably tell you that you’re an idiot and invite you to sit in on one of my practices so that I can prove you wrong.

I think that when many people think of cheerleading, they think of this:

Well, my friends, that’s sideline cheerleading, and I would agree that that is NOT a sport. What IS a sport, is this:

That’s competitive cheerleading, and it IS a sport—whether or not you’d like to admit it. Let’s just look at a few of the things competitive cheerleaders do that should make it clear that it’s a sport.

#1. Stunting. I know I’m a little biased… but really, you can’t tell me that an activity that requires you to throw your teammate 20 feet in the air shouldn’t count as a sport. This obviously requires amazing strength, technique,  and teamwork.

#2. Tumbling. Hello, gymnastics is a sport . . . and I don’t think that anyone can deny that someone who can throw a flawless round off back handspring full is a badass athlete.

#3. Jumps. Oh, cheer deniers, you’re right . . . throwing hyper-extended jumps requires absolutely no athletic prowess. 

Please – I’d love to see a volleyball player do one of these. It takes flexibility and tremendous strength in your legs, abs, and hip flexors to be able to hurl your body off the ground and whip your legs up like this.

I rest my case.

Pick Your Battles

I’ll be the first one to admit that I yell a lot at my practices. I run a tight ship. I have a lot to get done in very little time, so I don’t have time for goofing off and playing games. However, that doesn’t mean that I’m mean to the girls or never let them have fun… but when they’re having fun, you better believe that it’s productive fun and not just horsing around.
Most of my cheerleaders understand this. The ones that are dedicated to cheer and want to do well prefer that practice be this way. But then there are the others…

I have 3 girls who refuse to pay attention. I talked to them. I talked to their parents. I had their parents sit in on practice in the hope that their presence would encourage their daughters to stay on task. I made them run when they didn’t pay attention. I tried using incentives when they did pay attention. I tried to engage them by making things more fun. Nothing worked. Nothing.

So, I yelled. And then I yelled some more. And then I gave up. If they aren’t going to try, why should I? If they don’t care if they’re terrible, then why should I stress about it? Though I would never in a million years let it show to them, I have given up on them. Maybe they’ll come around in a few years… but for now, it’s a lost cause. Though it may sound mean, I honestly don’t care, because I sleep more soundly at night now that I’m not worrying about ways to make them care.

Every Party Needs a Pooper

Today’s topic: helicopter parents. They really grind my gears. They grind my gears so much, in fact, that this rant is going to be obnoxiously long.

Nothing will ruin someone’s coaching experience like the parents, and no cheer season is complete without at least one parent incident. . . And so my story begins . . .


This past week, the gym that we  practice in was not available on one practice days. Instead of cancelling practice, we decided to have practice at a park because our competition is next weekend.The head coach sent the parents the details and told them to dress their girls warmly. She also stressed that it was extremely important that the girls come to practice.

The problem:

Only 2/3 of the girls showed up. The lack of girls present was a big problem because with that many girls missing, it was nearly impossible to practice the routine. Not surprisingly, the girls that didn’t show are the ones that need to practice the most, and most of them are habitual absentees.

The following practice, I asked the 8 absentees why they didn’t show up for the outdoor practice. None of them had a valid excuse. Most of them said “I don’t know. . . just because.” One girl flat out told me that she didn’t come because she didn’t want to practice in the cold weather (it was in the high 50s, mind you — not exactly cold by our standards).

If the girls who did not show up had had legitimate excuses (ex: their parent had to work, they were sick, they had too much homework, etc.), then I would have accepted their absences and moved on. Laziness is not a legitimate excuse.

My response:

The rest of the coaches and I agreed that the girls who showed up deserved a reward. They had toughed out the chilly weather. They took their commitment to the squad seriously and they worked hard.

So, I brought them cupcakes the following practice and told them it was a reward for showing up to practice. I gave the cupcakes out at the end of practice and the girls weren’t allowed to eat them until they left.

To make sure that the absent girls didn’t feel too left out or bummed, I brought Halloween pencils and candy to give to every girl (whether or not she had been at the outdoor practice).

Enter, the Helicopter Mom:

The following practice, Helicopter Mom (HM) showed up raising holy hell that her daughter didn’t get a cupcake. I wasn’t at practice because of school, so HM had no qualms about yelling and badmouthing me to the other coaches (people get pretty brave when you aren’t there to defend yourself).

HM has 2 daughters on my squad. One is dedicated and hard working. The other is Cry Baby (CB), who never tries. No matter how hard we try to make it fun for her and engage her, she’s aloof. CB has a history of–you guessed it–being a cry baby. We give out the “Spirit Stick” every practice to the girl who tried the hardest that day (every girl gets it once), and CB bawled her eyes out and pouted the day that her sister got it.

Fun fact: CB is the one who told me she didn’t come to the outdoor practice because she felt it was “too cold.”

The Wrath of HM:

This is HM’s tirade in a nutshell: Other kids should not be rewarded for doing something good unless CB gets the reward too. Whether or not CB does anything to deserve the reward is completely irrelevant.

Apparently, CB went home and cried after she didn’t get a cupcake, because it made her feel left out. CB was so distraught over not getting the cupcake she didn’t earn that she took it personally. Her feelings were so hurt, in fact, that she stayed home from the next practice.

HM was so irate that I did not reward her daughter for doing nothing that she took the matter to the cheerleading director. The director then sent out a very nice email to all of the coaches informing them that food rewards are not allowed. (Oh, silly me! I get it now! Next time I’ll make sure to hand out $5 bills or awesome hair bows as rewards instead of cupcakes–clearly that’s more appropriate and won’t result in CB’s hurt feelings.)

My response:

You’ve got to be kidding me. Fine, HM, you win–I will not longer hand out rewards to anyone. If I’m not allowed to reward the girls who have earned it without giving your undeserving daughter a reward too, then that totally undermines the entire reward system. So, my solution is that no one ever gets rewarded.

Let’s just sum up the reasons why this is ridiculous:

You don’t get a reward unless you deserve it.

CB flat out told me she didn’t show up because she didn’t want to come — laziness/not caring isn’t a legit excuse.

There were 8 girls who didn’t receive cupcakes; it’s not like CB was singled out.

Those 8 girls still received a prize (even though they didn’t deserve it), just so they wouldn’t be upset.

My biggest issue here is this… WHAT ARE YOU TEACHING YOUR CHILDREN??? You’re teaching them that everything in life will get handed to them and that they will never face a hardship that mommy can’t fix. Newsflash, HM, life isn’t always fair. By being a helicopter parent, you’re setting CB up for a lifetime of hurt.

I want to make it clear that I love when parents are involved in their kid’s life — seriously, I do. I think that it’s extremely important that my cheerleaders’ parents take an interest in cheerleading. With that being said, there is a line that should not be crossed.

Gettin’ Crafty – Bow Pencils

At the beginning of this season, I made each of my girls a folder with rule and practice sheets in them. I knew that the folders would end up lost or crunched up in the bottom of their backpacks, so I told them they had to bring the folders to practice. For every practice they bring their folder, they get a sticker. If they have all possible stickers at the end of the week, they get a prize.

It’s back to school season, so I wanted their first “folder prize” to be a cute school supply. I originally wanted to make pom pom pens… but making 10+ pom pom pens seemed like a big pain in the wazoo. So, I opted for bow pencils. Plus, using pencils ended up being more practical, because in elementary school students have to use pencil in class. Also, since the bow isn’t directly on top of the pen, the girls can still use the eraser. A gift that’s functional, practical, and cute! Hurray! 😀

Here’s what you’ll need:

Mechanical pencils, scissors, hot glue gun, Gorilla glue (or any super glue), and 2 rolls of 7 yard ribbon. I got a satin ribbon to wrap the pencils in, and a sheer glitter ribbon to make the bows. I was able to make 13 pencils with the 7 yard ribbon rolls. For the bows, I cut the ribbon to about 20 inches. I’m not sure how much ribbon I used to wrap the pencils (I just cut it off when I got to the end).


Mechanical pencils, scissors, hot glue gun, Gorilla glue (or any super glue), and 2 rolls of 7 yard ribbon. I got a satin ribbon to wrap the pencils in, and a sheer glitter ribbon to make the bows.

The only tricky part is the beginning. I wanted the whole pencil wrapped, so I had to fold the ribbon in half at one end and wrap that under the eraser like this:


After you master that, just wrap the pencil with the ribbon and hot glue it down at the bottom. When I got to the bottom, I glued, wrapped once more, and then glued again just to make sure it stays attached.


I cut the ribbon for my bows at about 20 inches, and I got 13 bows out of the roll of ribbon. Just tie the bow around the pencil clip. I found that the best way to get a good, straight bow is to use the “loop, swoop, pull” method of tying a bow, but to do it in reverse–make the loop, and swoop underneath the loop instead of on top.

After you’ve tied the bows, dot some super glue on top of the bow’s knot to ensure that it stays tied. Also, to make sure the ends of the ribbon don’t fray, apply some clear nail polish top coat on the ribbon tips.


That’s all there is to it! Much easier than making a ton of pom poms. I also think they look a lot cuter than the poms 😀


How it all began

They say that those who can’t do, coach. In my case, I suppose that’s true.

My cheer career lasted a mere six years. It was brought to an abrupt end when I was sixteen by a slipping/floating patella and severe cartilage loss in my knee. When I could no longer handle the impact of jumping or flipping (even while wearing a Forest Gump worthy knee brace), I knew it was time to hang up my bow.

After giving up cheer, I had a lot of extra time on my hands, so I threw myself into coaching. I had been student demonstrating since I was in middle school, but I had never actually coached a squad. I dove into coaching headfirst, and started helping out with Pop Warner and all star squads, and I even started my own cheer group at the local YMCA.

Once I started coaching, I knew I had found my calling. I’ve now been coaching for seven years, and I’m still as excited and passionate about it as I was when I was sixteen. I enjoy coaching and I give it my all. I can’t get enough of it—which is why I now coach 15 squads.  (: