cheerleader_nervous_back (Small)It’s that time of the year again – where you get to show off the new skills you’ve learned in the hopes of making a higher level team.

But what if you don’t? Is the end of your cheer career?

Obviously the answer is no, but a lot of you definitely pretend like it is. So to calm your nerves, and help you become the best athlete possible with the best shot of making the team you want, I figured it was time to give away real-world advice that you’re not likely to get anywhere else!

There are 3 things I want you to remember…

1) Be Realistic

If you are placed on a level 3 team for example, then it’s because that’s where you most likely belong at the moment. Too many of you take team placements as something written in stone and get salty. Just because you’re on level 3 today, doesn’t mean you can’t work your butt off and get the skills necessary to be level 4 mid-season.

Also, be very careful of gyms offering you a spot on higher level teams when you don’t have the skills. Do they just want your money or do they actually care about seeing you succeed? Personally, there’s only one reason I coach – to produce high performing athletes with great character. Winning competitions just happens to be a side product of training them that way. Speaking of which…

2) Play The Long Term Game

I train every athlete so that one day, they can have the potential to be level 5 (or whatever the highest level happens to be in a few years from now). I always look at the top. If this means an athlete needs to spend another season in level 3 so that when they finally do layouts and fulls from a BackHandspring it’ll be perfect, then level 3 is where they’ll go. One extra season at level 3 can mean being able to spend 2 more seasons at level 5 when they’re finally ready.

Most athletes (and parents) fail to see it this way. Don’t make the same mistake. See the long term road and ask yourself, “Do I need to spend more time on basics so that when I’m doing fulls and doubles I don’t break myself?”

If the answer is “yes” (and you’ll know deep down if it’s a yes) then take a step back.

Yes, I know it’s a pain to focus on the basics. But yes, it’ll definitely pay off.

3) Start Chasing Skills, Not Levels!

This is a big secret that many don’t yet understand. Levels don’t mean a thing. Really, they don’t. Think about it: what is a level?

It’s just a number that groups a bunch of skills together. Whooptie-Doo. If you’re more concerned with posting on Instagram about how you’re a “level 5” athlete versus celebrating the skills you’ve learned and achieved, then you’re fooling yourself into thinking that you’re better than you actually are.

I see athletes that brag about being “level 4” but can’t even Roundoff Backhandspring Backtuck to save their life. Nor can they hold up a flyer any better than bases on a level 2 team.

It’s like being a black belt who can’t throw a half decent punch. Who do you think you’re fooling?

I really want you to remember the following statement: Levels, belts, and uniforms can lie, but your skills will always reveal the truth.

Why do I emphasize this so much? Because good coaches know this is a fact, which is why they sometimes they make decisions and put certain people on certain teams that others might think is unfair.

How many times have you heard of a parent make a complaint that goes like this: “I can’t believe it, Suzy was only level 3 last year, but now they’re putting her on level 5? That’s absurd! My daughter has been on level 4 for two years, she deserves to be on level 5 now!”

Well actually Miss Cheermom Nancy, no she doesn’t.

Because what you were unaware of, was the fact that little Suzy spent the entire season training her butt off at tumbling practice, did private lessons, conditioned daily, followed a proper diet and stayed dedicated so that now she can layout full and kick double basket like a champ… while your daughter still can’t do a standing back tuck consistently. She focused on levelling up her skills, and in doing so became an asset.

So if you’re an athlete, please do yourself a favor and work on being so damn good, that they cannot ignore you.

Anyone who crosses their fingers and sits at home praying that they make a high level team is most likely NOT ready for that team. No coach will hold back an athlete with a strong work ethic, clean double fulls and all the experience in the world from joining their level 5 team. Why would they? This is a competitive sport. Most coaches make decisions that will put them in the best position to win. So if you’re an ASSET to a team, no one is going to “look past” you.

In fact they just might chase you. So just focus on getting BETTER.

The Sad Truth

It pains me to say it, but 95% of athletes and parents that read this article will probably ignore my advice. But that’s not who I wrote it for. I wrote it for the 5% that will take it to heart, and will dedicate themselves to becoming great “long term” cheerleaders. Ones will that continue to dominate well into their 20’s in the Open Divisions.

I mean, if you love cheer and tumbling… why wouldn’t you want to do it for as long as possible?!

Makes sense to me. Hopefully, it makes sense to you as well.

Train hard, Eat well, Stay fierce.

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