“Coach, I need advice.”
The message popped up in my inbox one afternoon from one of my former cheerleaders. Despite that it’s been two years since I coached her, I’m still someone she turns to when she needs an ear. And I’m always glad to be her sounding board, even when I can’t do much more than listen and offer encouragement.
One of the reasons I loved coaching so much is because my cheerleaders always became much more than athletes on a team. To me, they were – and still are – family. I’m still referred to as “Coach” by cheerleaders I coached more than a decade ago!
There is a major human element to cheerleading, and I always felt I could coach better if I had more insight into my cheerleaders’ personalities. I wanted to get to know them, and as I did, I found so many interesting facets to their personalities. Most of all, I just loved them for the amazing people they were.
Without knowing it, my teams throughout the years have helped me in times of personal struggles. When I was down about problems in other parts of my life, sometimes just walking through the gym door and seeing my cheerleaders made it better. I didn’t always share my problems with them, but the times I did, my teams offered me the support I had so often given them.
At the beginning of the 2011 season, my team was preparing for an early Homecoming when I unexpectedly had to undergo surgery – with just one week left before the big game and halftime routine. I had to miss two days of practice, and the day I came back, I had to sit in my desk chair the entire practice as I wasn’t fully recovered. My cheerleaders hugged me, wheeled my chair wherever I needed them to and presented me with flowers at the end of practice. No one complained about the added stress due to missed practice time or the fact that we lost time on the field because of rain from a recent hurricane. That Homecoming performance was one of the best ever, and I was so proud of my team that I cried as they hit their routine. I’m not sure they realized just how much their love and hard work meant to me at that time.
As another school year winds down, remember that your coaches will always be there for you, no matter where you go or how many years pass. I wouldn’t be half the person I am today without the many outstanding cheerleaders who have touched my life, and still do. Because just like cheerleaders need coaches, coaches need cheerleaders too.