How to drive your cheer coaches crazy – a guide for parents

There aren’t too many coaching gigs that are more tough than being a cheer coach.  You have to be a dance instructor, tumbling expert, spotter and personal trainer all rolled into one.  You have both girls and boys on the team and each has his or her own distinct strengths, flexibility and weaknesses. Your a teacher with the additional duty of making these kids into top notch athletes.  It’s a very rewarding experience . . . and then the parents come in.

Parents can really make or break any cheer leading program.  It all comes down to how parents work with the coaches and gym leadership.

If you want to drive your cheer coaches crazy, here are a few pointers:

Gym policies —
  • Don’t read the gym policies when you sign up (or ever!) If they are written well you’ll know the basic expectations, rules and regulations for being a part of the program.  Ignore this and you’ll be running to the director or coach with questions and getting that look – the “didn’t you read the handbook?” stare.
  • Be consistently late with payments.  Outside of gym fees that cover coaching salaries and overhead, the extra payments for competition registrations, uniforms and the like all must be made on time by the gym.  When parents are late with their payments, it makes the gym cover those fees or suffer consequences like late shipments on shoes or any competition discounts.
  • Don’t show up to parent meetings.  Meetings are usually mandatory for a reason. When parents are late or don’t show up at all, valuable information is missed.  What was the hairstyle for the upcoming competition? What time are we meeting the buses?  Get to the meetings and you’ll be on top of the game.
  • Ignore those emails! What could they possibly have to offer? Maybe you’re getting several emails a week from the gym.  With email there is a written record of any policy changes, competition information and the like.  Not to mention it could be an important note about your child’s individual needs. Not seeing email? Check your spam filter to be sure you’re not missing an important messsage.
Coaching —
  • Coaching from the spectator seats.  Nothing could be worse for a coach OR the athlete than a parent who watches practice and continues to make gestures, or worse, comments out loud about what the child should be doing.  It demeans the athlete AND the coaches.  It undermines what the coaches are trying to accomplish.  If you find yourself unable to keep your comments in check, it might be a good idea not to attend practice sessions.
  • Question the decisions made by coaches and staff.  Yes your child is awesome! But where they fit best into the cheer routine is really best left to the coaching staff. They have a unique, unbiased view when it comes to constructing a routine that will “max points” at competition.
  • Pushing your child to try skills they aren’t ready for.  The skills in cheerleading are very much like a pyramid, the foundation has to be strong before you can add all the other layers.  By perfecting the technique you’ll decrease the potential for injuries while increasing potential for zero deductions.  The best coaches will emphasize techniques be perfected before encouraging an athlete to try a new skill.
  • Assuming that coaches have favorites. They don’t. Coaches are hired by the gym director to get help get the most out of athletes.  Coaches want to get the most points possible with the cleanest routine possible at competitions and will make changes to the team and routine as necessary.  Assuming that the changes have anything to do with favoritism is wrong.
  • Don’t discuss any of the above concerns with the coaches.  If you really want to make coaches crazy, don’t talk to them about their decisions, your athlete’s progress or your feelings about changes.  Because when you don’t communicate, thoughts / feelings are left to fester and become an attitude problem that quickly wears off on your athlete.  Why not try to communicate and resolve issues so everyone benefits? It will make your athlete happier and the team stronger.
The program —
  • Use the other gyms in town as a threat. Yes there are other options and the coaching staff is well aware of your choices as a parent.  You *could* take your athlete to another gym. But throwing that in the coach / gym owner’s face as a threat when things aren’t going the way you expected is just not cool.
  • Take your complaint to social media.  This is yet another option when, as a concerned parent, the gym isn’t living up to your expectations. It’s all too easy to complain to nobody in particular and the whole world at the same time.  In reality the coaches and gym director really want to hear from you personally before you head into the social realm.  Make an appointment to meet with those concerned and see if you can find common ground.  Of course if your athlete isn’t happy, that’s another story.
Sportsmanship —
  • Speak badly about the competitors.  Especially in front of your athlete. The competition is where we want all athletes to shine as performers AND good sports.
  • Let your athlete snub the program.  Being late to practice, not listening to the coach, and even those eye rolls are disrespectful to everyone: teammates and coaches included.  Make your athlete accountable for his / her actions and back up the coach when there are consequences. The best athletes are those who are coachable. They understand the coach has the best interests of the team at heart and will do what it takes to be a good sport and teammate.

The key to any successful relationship is communication.  Whether it’s the coaching staff, the management or even discussing expectations with your athlete.  When everything is discussed in an open, honest manner things run more smoothly and hurt feelings can be avoided.  When everyone is on the same game plan, the teams all do better and the gym is a better place for it.