We at Superstars were made aware of an incredible piece written by a very well known American cheerleading coach. This coach runs a successful gym with multiple teams and judges international. As we think her writing on the subject of what one manages and deals with as a coach is so poignant we wanted to post the whole thing in full here.
As she says - as coaches, beyond teaching our athletes cheer, dance and tumble, we are trying to teach them to be resiliant, strong, good people. The lessons they learn with us in their weekly training reach so far beyond the walls of the gym or edges of the competition mat. They are attempting to foster confident, reliable, conscientious, powerful individuals who will be more capable of dealing with the difficulties and challenges of life outside the gym and off the mat.
THE LIFE OF A CHEER COACH by Jen Melton
I am a cheer coach, which also means I am a tumbling coach, a dance coach, a flexibility and conditioning coach, I am a uniform designer, a choreographer, a nurse when needed, an encourager, a realist, a listener, a last minute routine change expert, a mediator, a disciplinarian, a janitor, a rhinestone gluer, an apparel designer, a private instructor, a transportation service, and most of all, completely dedicated to the progress and happiness of my athletes.
Wearing so many hats is difficult, yet we typically bear it with little complaint. Being so many things to so many people is draining. Most often we hear 50 negatives to every positive from parents. Finding the fuel to continue to stoke our passion can seem impossible sometimes, as hurtful words, gossip and unnecessary drama throw a bucket of water on our fire with each episode. We are expected to please every single family in our program despite the reality that every single family wants something different. Add another straw to the camel’s back.
We set rules so that everyone is treated equally and expectations are consistent, only to have the rules tested and broken over and over, giving us no leg to stand on. All this despite the fact that the rules are set from day one AND agreed to by all. We are left to explain to “Suzy’s Mom” why “Betty” was allowed to break the rule with no consequence. And again, another straw is placed on the camel’s back.
We work WELL over 40 hours per week on average. If you are a gym owner, you may actually PAY to coach, as the hourly rate when you consider our take home and the amount of time we put in, I have calculated anywhere from 23 cents to maybe a few dollars an hour, depending on the week. Another straw.
Let’s discuss the physical demands. At 40 years old, I have chronic bursitis in both knees (from spotting on my knees for countless years); swelling in my arms; major lower back pain; pulled muscles that have never had the chance to really heal because we never stop physically assisting our athletes; and constant muscle tension from the stress of holding everything together. I am not a sedentary coach. I am constantly on my feet; assisting; spotting; participating in stunts and ensuring the safety of the kids. We won’t even get into the mental strain of juggling all these jobs. Place another straw.
Now let’s consider the demands it requires that directly affect my home life. I spend anywhere from 10-20 hours per week doing gym-related things in my “personal time”… NOT including the competition weekends when I am completely wrapped up in attending to every detail of the event and the teams that are attending. I hate to think about the time spent away from my husband and family due to all the countless hours dedicated to my athletes. In addition, we can take out our frustration caused by the stresses of the gym on the people we love most, our families. The straws are piling up.
Most of us are some degree of a perfectionist, in that we want to see our teams succeed and our athletes progress. But most of all, we want them to become good PEOPLE. So when parents allow their child to quit mid-season for insignificant reasons, or simply because you are disgruntled about something you probably don’t even know the full story on, we see the lesson your child learns: It is ok to forego your commitments if it benefits YOU. It doesn’t matter how it affects anyone else. So we know these poor children will go on to think that bailing on a commitment when it gets hard or just inconvenient is an acceptable way to handle the situation. And we wonder why young adults these days are dropping out of school; hopping from job to job or from relationship to relationship; and there is no sense of consistency and dedication in their lives. They learn early on the “Me, me, me” mentality… But real life won’t work that way. So teaching life lessons becomes extremely difficult. Even more straws.
We want parents to feel a part of the training experience, so we open practices, only to realize how detrimental that can be, as some will abuse the privilege and use your hospitality as an opportunity to ignite drama and expel negativity. We feel the judgment from the sidelines, as parents can make presumptions about coaching and techniques without even knowing how to coach in the first place. You jeopardize the focus of the athletes by allowing open practices because you want the feeling of openness and family unity in the gym. Then you hear about the circle of Debbie Downers who have been congregating in the corner for weeks, discussing everything they are displeased with about your program. The straws are getting so thick now.
And lastly, we aren’t sure if people understand that we are human too. We have feelings and emotions and need occasional positive reinforcement to counter-balance the negative so we can channel the strength to keep coaching with a fire of passion that will benefit your children. We aren’t sure if people understand this or even process this. The majority of us do not own mega gyms, bringing in a six figure income each year. Most of us are making less than minimum wage – doing one of the most important jobs possible: Coaching your children. We are dedicated to helping them achieve their dreams and goals. We make mistakes just like anyone, but at the end of the day our priority is to see our athletes get the best experience and make memories to last a lifetime.
The straws stay thick… But one day the back will break, as one can only bear so much. Think carefully before placing straws, as you never know which one will be the last.