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.

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.

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. (;

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.

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).

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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 😀

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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.  (: