By Cat Weeden
Updated January 17, 2019
This industry demands every single part of you to be successful.
You must be able to problem solve, balance budgets, work quickly and work well under pressure. You will sacrifice your time, your sleep, your relationships, and the ability to talk about anything else other than cheer in a one on one or group setting. I had no way to know almost 20 years ago that I would learn so much about love, loss and commitment through this sport. But I have. Over all these years, the biggest lesson I have learned, is that the greatest and most important part of you, that you voluntarily give away while coaching is your HEART.
I have given a piece of my heart away to thousands of kids who have turned into great adults, and great little people. They say that shared experience creates bonds, friendships and lifetime memories, and I cannot think of a better example of this than cheer. We grow with these kids through practices, tumbling classes, traveling, competing, handling adversity in their lives, celebrating individual and team successes and through navigating life, which can be really hard on some kids.
Its only natural that these kids hold a very special place in your life and you grow to love them like your own children.
There is no other heartbreak that is comparable in coaching, then when you have a kid or kids you have invested in, leave your program.Every coach or owner I have ever met, has a story (if not more than 1) of the total and absolute heartbreak stemming from this. It can be confusing, hurtful, blindsiding and really derail your forward momentum if you let it. Or this can be a moment in time where you grow as a coach and a person.
I have personally experienced this many times over the years. Its not easy to navigate through, but I have always come out the other side a better, stronger person. It’s important when you lose a kid to understand the situation from all angles, remind yourself that you ONLY want kids in your program that want to be there and lastly move on, find peace and gain focus.
Understanding the Situation from all Angles
Kids leave gyms or get out of cheer for a handful of reasons depending on their age.
Here are just a couple of reasons:
- Time Commitment
- Not Progressing
- Burn out
- Playing another Sport
- Outside Distractions (Boyfriends, Friends, High School, Getting a Car, etc).
These are all valid reasons for a kid to start unengaging and want to quit or move on, but these are not necessarily reasons that parent should allow it. But that’s itself could be a whole other blog ☺
Whatever their reasoning may be, once a kid or family lets one of those reasons fester long enough, it will become a distraction for them, you and the team. Not every kid is made for the long haul in cheer, and not every kid that starts in your program will make it to the end of their eligibility in your program. Once you understand and accept this some disappointment will come off your shoulder.
Put yourself in the kid or parent’s shoes. Realize that sometimes it really isn’t about you, its about them and whatever stage they are in in their lives. If they have done you wrong before, during or after they’ve left, that’s on THEM, not you.
Our job is to love these kids, help them foster growth and become better people while they are with us. We are just lucky enough to do all of those things through the vehicle that is Cheer.
Only Want Kids in the Program That Want to Be There
This was a big mentality shift for me about 6 years ago. Instead of valuing my team, program or gym where I should have, I had gotten really suck on this idea that if a kid left it was because we “weren’t good enough in some way.” Being on the defense all the time stopped me from being able to read the team environment and individual kid’s interactions correctly. Some kids/ Parents are TOXIC to your gym and environment. Don’t fight for those people. Don’t stand in their way if they talk of leaving And don’t be sad when they leave.
Nowadays, my mentality is that it’s a privilege to cheer in our program, and I may love you, but if you don’t hold value in our gym, team, stunt, then this isn’t right fit for the kid, the team nor the program.
Move On, Find Peace and Gain Focus
Move on! Every kid that has ever come through your doors has been an important part of your history, your now and your future. No one kid, or handful of kids will define you or your program. It’s really easy to let getting burned by a kid or a family alter what you do, and question the motives of others around you. Be vigilant, but not paranoid. Never let a situation or disappointment create an emotional wall between you and the people that are deserving of that love.
The last piece of the puzzle for me was gaining focus. I aim to focus on everyone around me that’s ALL IN. those people are the ones who can handle a rocky competition, terrible practice, stunt/ formation changes with grace and ease. They understand the process and the hills and valleys of a season. They understand that you are human and sometimes make mistakes, and they support you through them. I invest in these people and they invest in me and the program. Give new kids and families that join your program the chance to create forever bonds with you.
People stay in a sport like cheer because of their kids abilities, and their belief that the coaches care about the kids successes on and beyond the mat. A gym is a family, and its own community. And that community is strongest when you believe in your program, your product and yourself . These kids deserve ALL of you, not just a small protected portion of you.
Water, love, and nurture the ones who have dropped roots and move forward from the ones who have not.