Try outs are trying

Every year the cheerleaders go through another session of try-outs.  It’s an equally exciting and stressful time. New athletes joining the gym, friends leaving for college or other gyms.  Everyone wants to impress the coaches and each other with their talents.

For parents it’s an equally nail biting experience.  Will your athlete move up? Will they make the team they want? And what will you say if they are disappointed?  We all want our athletes to be “good sports” – these tips will help you with try-outs and any time things don’t turn out the way your athlete would like.

  1. First, don’t try to “save” your athlete from feeling the pain, instead give them tools to cope by guiding them through the feelings: “How do you feel to be on the same team as last year?” and “What do you think you could do this season so you’ll be ready to move up next year?”  By helping him / her work through feelings they’ll be better equipped to deal with future let downs.
  2. Be careful with the praise – overdoing the amount of praise you give your athlete makes them dependent on you for validation.  They need to know they are good enough without being told and that comes from within.
    There’s a difference between, “You’re the greatest flyer!” and “Wow I can tell how hard you’ve worked to hit your stunts!”  Because your athlete can control how hard they work to get results, the latter is more meaningful to them and instills that feeling of self worth.
  3. Encourage your athlete to try new skills.  Sometimes coaches don’t see that an athlete wants to try the next stunt or work harder on a skill. Ask your child what they would like to work on and talk with the coaches to see how you can help your child achieve the next skill.
  4. Help your athlete set realistic goals.  No one in competitive cheer goes from level 1 to a level 5 team within a year.  Although being on a level 5 team and going to Worlds is an excellent long term goal, remind your athlete that goals take hard work and dedication.  Outside of cheer,  practice delayed gratification with your athlete by helping them save for a larger purchase or wait for a special treat until after chores.  These practices carry over to cheer and help them understand how the best things in life take time.
  5. Remember that you are your athlete’s best example.  They watch you like a hawk so when things don’t go as plan (didn’t make the team they wanted, didn’t get first place at a competition) the way you react is they way they will react.  When you say things like, “That other team was really good, guess we’ll have to try harder next time,” your athlete understands that winning isn’t everything and it’s okay to not win.

Bottom line, let them know that no matter how they do, you are still very happy with how hard they worked and how much they have achieved.

While these tips will help in most situations, there are times you absolutely must step in:

  • Anytime your athlete would be humiliated.  If they forgot their cheer shoes don’t use it as a lesson to teach responsibility, take the shoes to them.
  • If your athlete is in danger.  They shouldn’t be trying higher level skills or stunts until they have mastered the level before – this is for their safety.  Watch for random stunting outside of supervised settings to minimize risk of injury.
  • If your athlete is being bullied. Sadly this does happen in cheer gyms.  The best thing you can do is try to get all the facts, block the offending parties from athlete’s social media account and talk to the coaches / director.

Things don’t always work out the way we would want and that’s especially hard on these competitive kids.  Helping them learn to manage the disappointment and look forward to reaching their goals helps them become more than better athletes, they become better people.