Four years of pushing my mind and body to its limit, being one piece of a pyramid that would crumble figuratively and literally if I didn’t do my job, trying to motivate and support teammates to do what may seem like the impossible. The sport of cheerleading is not one for the light-hearted. It’s for the tough, strong-minded, internally & externally motivated, ok with failure, smile through the pain individuals who see the end goal and do everything they can to get there as a team.
I fell in love with this sport eight years ago and it has a large hand into why I am who I am and why I am the leader I am. Yet, this year was the year my leadership was pushed to new levels and my personal motivation was tested and retested.
This year I walked into the gym as a four-year program cheerleader (not a small feat) and was elected as the captain of the All-Girl team. As the captain, I was not only the one everyone looked to when they didn’t know what was going on but as the one to make the final call of to stand up for their wellbeing. I was also as the person my coach leaned onto be the liaison between him and the team. It was a position that I knew I was ready for but never thought would challenge me so much.
The team of girls this year were comprised of me, the fourth year, a few third years, and a TON of rookies. The rookies dominated in numbers and were (and still are) unbelievably talented. I knew that the rookies would be fragile as they learn the ropes. I knew if we did it right, we could hone in on their talent and push them to reach skills our CMU Cheer Program has never seen before.
Knowing that all I could think about is “How am I going to do tha?t!” My initial mindset was a micromanaging strategy talking to them about what motivates them, making sure the older teammates knew not to be mean and run them off the team and to encourage them even when they fail and so on and so on. Obviously, that isn’t the best way. There is no way for me to control what happens and I obviously can’t make someone stay if they don’t want and even more so I don’t want the older girls to be anyone but themselves. We had to build a family filled with trust, motivation and a goal. That doesn’t happen overnight and there isn’t a handbook telling us what to do for a reason.
I decided if I clearly communicated my goals for myself personally and highly encourage them to set personal goals, then to set goals as a team would be a good first step. From there I was clear about the role I wanted and planned to play and communicated the leader I wanted to be for them. I told them I will be the arms to catch them when they fall, someone, they can trust no matter what and someone who will always have their best interest in mind, but I will also push them and communicate to them with as much transparency and clarity as possible.
I came into practice every time and did my 110% best to be the leader that I told them I would be and some days it was really hard and I failed a few times when I started to let the weight of outside sources come inside the gym. For that, I was called out that, which was a good thing. My team knew when I was off my game gave me the support when I needed it. That understanding helped build a trust that was unbelievable. These girls trusted me to convince them to do stunts that they didn’t think they could do. They followed suit and each individual was transparent with the rest of the team about what they could offer and over time built a bond of 30 women that was like none I have ever experienced. Of course, there were bad days and of course, I didn’t do it alone, but it was a perfect storm.
We may not have all been best friends but the bond we made will never be broken. Through injuries and routine changes to adding in the most difficult skills, we have EVER done the night before National Finals. Through tears, blood, and college life we hit the mat and made CMU History in so many ways.
I learned that as a leader you don’t always have to have it all together and everything happens for a reason. When building a team if you come in and say, “this is who I am and this is what I will be doing to make our goals happen, what do you plan to do to help? We can do this together!” is a great place to start, but to actually do what you say builds a loyalty and trust that can launch girls high into the air (no pun intended).
Central Michigan University 2017/2018 Competitive Cheer Team Takes 10th in the toughest division in the Nation.
I can leave the program knowing that I had a journey of a lifetime, but I’m leaving it with a standard that I helped set with talented athletes who will make me proud.
FIRE UP FOREVER!