Whether you have ever been a part of a team or not, the word “coach” is a familiar noun for all of those who are a part of our competitive American culture. Some think of the word “coach” and picture an angry man on the sidelines turning red in the face because he’s yelling at his players to work harder and run faster. Maybe you picture a Dad coaching his son or daughter in tee ball and teaching him or her the proper technique in swinging a bat. While images like that are often at the forefront of many people’s thinking, coaching is much more than teaching techniques and helping to build endurance. Coaching is about instilling values, commitment, and above all else, a passion for something desired by an individual.
Growing up, I played lacrosse and softball and had those somewhat stereotypical coaches described above. My lacrosse coaches pushed and pushed and pushed until we were the greatest – constantly working on being the best in the league, the county, and the state. My Dad was my little league coach in softball and I can still remember him teaching me about “protecting the plate” and what to do when a pop fly or ground ball came my way. And although these coaches taught me great lessons about agility, stamina, and technique, it was my cheerleading coaches who taught me the lessons that I carried with me both in sports and in my personal life.
Values: “Never settle” was a phrase that my high school cheerleading coach repetitively ingrained in my mind. We had to hold ourselves to a high standard because if we didn’t, then who else would? She taught us how to appreciate the sport, to respect each other, and to cherish the lessons that we learned along the way. It was an integral part of each season, of each competition, and of each practice.
Commitment: When you tried out for varsity cheerleading at my high school, a high level of commitment was inevitable. There was no quitting. There was no missing games or practices. If you were sick, you took medicine and came to practice anyways. If you had a minor injury, you waited to see the doctor until we had a long holiday break or until the season was over. If they told you to sit out for 2 weeks, you were back in 1. Did it lead to a more rapid spread of the common cold every winter? Absolutely. But did any of us ever regret it or felt like we were obligated? Absolutely not. I wanted to be in practice. I had a desire to be there for myself, my teammates, and my coach. Cheerleading is different than most sports in the regard that you cannot have substitutes for different positions. If one person is missing, the team cannot perform to its potential. To hold true to the cliche’, there really is no “I” in “Team” when it comes to cheerleading. You’re either all in it or no one can succeed. This commitment level was emphasized through my coaches who built a culture within our team. We loved one another and were as close as sisters; breaking a commitment to each other would be like disappointing a family member, and it was our coaches who fostered and manifested that commitment within all of us.
Passion: The key value to succeeding in anything in life is to love it. Bottom line. This is the best lesson that I have ever learned in life. If you love something, you are happy, and my own personal philosophy is that you are limitless in your potential and your capabilities when you are truly and genuinely happy. My coaches helped me see that being passionate about cheerleading was the key to relating to my teammates, to having an incentive to put in the long and exhausting hours of hard work, and to ultimately achieving all of our goals and win the competitions that we set out to win. Being passionate about something makes it feel effortless and stress free. Cheerleading has never been a chore to me. Going to practice has never been an inconvenience and bonding with my teammates has always been something I looked forward to doing, not something that was required in order to work well together. I have never been more passionate about anything as I am with cheerleading. But that passion has helped me to be selective in my personal life and only commit to things that I wholeheartedly believe in.
These values, commitments, and passions were what led to my cheerleading success. Seven Section 5 titles, 8 nationally ranked championships, 5 senior individual championships, and a leadership award for my entire Section 5 classification. Of course we practiced hard, put in countless extra hours, and overcame our struggles in order to bond as a team. But none of these things would have been possible without the time and effort that my coaches gave to me. I will forever be indebted to them for their love and compassion that they were able to teach me through their positive example. I guess I never really had coaches, I always had a mentor and a role model who I could look up to with admiration and gratitude. I thank them from the bottom of my heart.
My high school cheerleading coach, Rebecca, at my HS graduation
My college cheerleading coach, Alisha, at a competition last spring