by Pam Headridge
Coaching cheerleading is a blend of organization, communications, accountability, motivation and fun. Each component is crucial to successful coaching. Think about them as ingredients in a “recipe for success’. You, as the coach, must mix them together to create a masterpiece that inspires pride in each team member.
ORGANIZATION is vital to your cheer program. Before the start of your season, define your program and philosophy. Do you support all sports? Do you perform community service? Do you compete? Answering these types of questions defines the activities and tasks to be done. Write a description of your program and the obligations of your cheerleaders. On the first day of try-outs, hand out two copies to every attendee and have both the parent and the athlete sign a copy for you to keep. Write a list of activities and tasks for each month. Make an outline of what is needed for each of those tasks. Make calendars of all events, games, and practices and distribute on the first day of the season. Put everything in writing! That helps both you and your cheerleaders. Require each cheerleader to have a notebook to keep all handouts. Require them to bring that notebook to all practices and games. Remember by being organized, you are teaching this needed skill to your cheerleaders.
COMMUNICATIONS is key in all areas.... with cheerleaders, parents, coaches, custodians, bookkeeper, teachers, administrators, school board, and community. Communicate both face to face and in writing with them. For example, have a parent meeting BEFORE try-outs and distribute requirements. Parents can be your best support system so be organized and enthusiastic at that first meeting. Draft a letter to your coaches, at the beginning of the season, wishing the team good luck and, again at the end, recognizing their successes. Always write thank you notes to everyone who has helped your program from the custodian to the school board to community businesses. Keeping in touch greatly benefits your program.
The most important lines of communication will be with your cheerleaders. Learn how to talk and work with them. What you say and how you deal with your cheerleaders impacts their life-long skills and self image. Teach them communication skills through assigned tasks and team-building games.
Communication leads to the next ingredient ..... ACCOUNTABILITY. You must have rules, in writing, explaining what is required for your program. Cheerleaders and parents both need to know the the prerequisite and time commitment for cheerleading. For example, issues like how many practices and games must they attend, requirements for lettering, and what is needed to be eligible to try out again next season. Let them know the repercussions of not meeting those requirements. Each cheerleader in my program has a notebook for cheerleading. It has a record of their obligations and responsibilities. Follow-through is a skill that often young people do not understand. They think an excuse negates the responsibility. Teach the cheerleaders that they are answerable for their assigned tasks and duties. Reward good work. Avoid a demerit system. A coach needs to concentrate on the positive side -- jobs that are completed.
Accountability leads to the next ingredient --- MOTIVATION. Think about it as the “icing on the cake”. To motivate, you must instill in your cheerleaders the value for what they are doing and then reward them for their success. You need to motivate the individual and the team as a unit. Give “high fives” (paper hand cutouts) for every task they complete or every skill they improve or do well. Maintain a cheerleading bulletin board and/or web site that announces their accomplishments and that develops a sense of team pride. Read a motivational quote, poem or word of the day. Team bonding games help to unify the group which motivates them to work together as one. A great book for these games is “Team Building Activities for Every Group” by Alanna Jones. Set aside ten minutes of practice time for the team to participate in these fun games.
The final ingredient and most important is FUN. How? Games and rewards are certainly ways as stated before. Give special treats before the games (My captains do this). For example, give out a roll of Lifesavers with a note that says “Thanks for the the important role you play on our squad! You are truly a lifesaver ”. The parents also get involved in the fun, too, by surprising the cheer squad with team lunches and snacks. They, also, make large cardboard cheerleader cut-outs on sticks with the name of each cheerleader and wave them at competitions. At the end of the season, have a banquet and show a video of the past year.
So remember this recipe.... take cups full of organization, blend well with communication, mix in accountability and motivation. Stir in lots of fun and you will be a successful coach with a successful team.
To read more about Pam click here for Bio/Photo
Many Hats of Cheer Coaches - Pam Headridge
Coaching Responsiblities - Varsity.com
50 Ways to Improve Your Program - Kathy Tadlock
Coaches' Responsibilities - NFHS
Looking Back to Improve the Future - Debbie Bracewell
Lessons in Spirit (One coach shares with new coaches what she learned along the way) - Pam Carter
A Challenge to Reflect - Coaching for Character
Athlete & Coaches Relationship
Guidelines for Sending the Effective Messages
Confident Cheerleading (web site) - Dr. Pamela Enders
Cheerleading Info Center (web site)
Establishing Your Coaching Philisophy - Scott Rosberg
Building a Champion, Bill Walsh
Shooting in the Dark: Tales of Coaching and Leadership, Jim Thompson
The Seven Secrets of Successful Coaches, Jeff Janssen
Way to Go, Coach: A Scientifically-Proven Approach to Coaching Effectiveness, Ronald Smith, Frank Small
Positive Coaching, Jim Thompson
Double Goal Coach, Jim Thompson
Creative Coaching, Jerry Lynch
Turning Around Athletic Programs, Bruce E. Brown
First Steps to Creating a Successful Team, Bruce E. Brown