I looked out of my 4th floor window to see the sun rising behind the downtown Atlanta skyline. My heart was beating and the feeling in my stomach wasn’t just the early morning hunger and lack of coffee, but on this particular morning I was embarking on the biggest journey yet as a cheer coach. With a hot cup of coffee, sausage egg and cheese croissant digesting, I entered into the World Congress Center in downtown Atlanta for Cheersport Nationals. Greeted by smell of fresh aerosol hairspray and nearly blinded by the iridescence of rhinestone uniforms I walked into what will become one of the most important events in my history as a coach. As I zipped up my suitcase and rode the elevator that used to be crowded with cheerleaders and parents, now empty of even the scent of hairspray, I began to reflect on the amazing weekend. When reflecting on events there are three things that I think about in order to determine the event a success. Before I can determine it a success I have to measure experience, learning and victory. I am absolutely convinced that my first ever Cheersport Nationals was a success, and here is why.
Experienced is measured in two areas. 1) How was the experience? 2) Would the experience gained result in growth?
How was the Experience?
If you’ve never been to Cheersport Nationals, YOU HAVE TO MAKE IT A POINT TO GO! The experience was incredible to say the least. The atmosphere was amazing, warm ups (though intimidating at first) were the most fun they’ve ever been, and the stage… Let’s just say it’s an experience that must be had to understand. This leads me to my next area
Would the experience gained lead to growth?
Experience is important for growth. When you have experience in something you are able to perform the task in a related area with a level of expertise. This weekend was an incredible experience that will lead to amazing growth. With the magnitude of the event, and the high level of competition, there is experience gained that can carry athletes and coaches alike beyond their goals. This experience that I had the honor of sharing with my amazing athletes will absolutely prove to be a game changer in the life of our program. Every moment of this event brought experience that would teach us lessons on a personal level and organizational level, which will have a huge impact on the effectiveness of our coaches and the performance of our athletes. This can all be attributed to the lessons learned from the experience.
This is an easy one. Honestly, I feel like anyone can (and should) learn from every experience whether good or bad. So, there is no doubt in my mind that we have learned from this event. The difference here is that I left with a WEALTH of knowledge gained. Being able to look at what you’ve been doing from a different perspective is incredibly valuable, and getting able to do that while witnessing the best in the business doing what they do, helps in seeing areas where improvement is possible and everyone will benefit. From the athletes’ perspective, they too get to watch the best in the business at what they do and learn from them what it takes to be at their very best. I am absolutely convinced that this event was a great learning experience for all who went.
Just like any competitive sport, we compete with the hopes of winning. The crazy thing about wining is that there is more to wining than just coming in first place. In fact, I am convinced that it is possible to take home first place without having won at all. However, placement is important, and when done right it will reveal to you where you stand with your competitors. This weekend, we placed pretty low in comparison to the rest of the world it seams, but as a young program there are other things that should be taken into consideration before expecting to place high in this sort of environment. When I personally looked back at placements, I noticed some very encouraging truths.
When it comes to my local competitors, we all placed similarly. In fact, each of the programs around us (even those whose name hold the most weight) placed almost exactly alike in their respected division. This is amazing news to me because that means that we are comparable as one of the youngest programs with those who have been around for many, many years. These programs that we have a great deal of respect for, are now comparable to us, and it has been shown on the largest stage of the year! To me, that is victory.
The most important area of victory that I look at is personal victory. In every group of athletes, there are some who have been struggling in one area or another. In every program, there are teams that have been struggling. When these athletes and teams go to a huge event like this one and conquer those giants, there is much a great cause for celebration! Watching an athlete finally overcome a mental block, or a team finally get that zero deduction routine are moments that will last a lifetime and victories that I prefer to celebrate. When you can look over a group of students who have worked so hard for you and see all of their personal victories, placement seems to matter a little less.
The joy of winning will last a short while when compared to the defeat of fear in the life of a young person. After all, confidence is worth more than any banner that can be won and hung on a wall.
When I look at all of these areas and reflect on this weekend I walk away convinced it was a success. Having had a great experience and now being more experienced as coaches and athletes, learning all of the valuable lessons offered, and recognizing all of the victories won reveals to me that this event was not only a success, but also a necessary stop in the journey that is every season.