The Perfect Storm

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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.

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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.

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cheer 4The 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.cheer1

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.cheer 2

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.

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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!

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Trust the Journey

2016/2017 Started with force… especially in the world of CMU Cheer. As a program, we all had high aspirations to do big things for ourselves and our program. At the start, we weren’t quite sure how that was going to happen, but knew we wanted it. In CMU Cheer we aren’t given the title of “captain”, it isn’t voted on and labeled, but it is a responsibility that is put onto in a natural occurrence of overlapping poise, experience, drive and genuine care. You all-of-a sudden know that everyone is looking and coming to you and everyone falls in suit.

At the end of the 2015/2016 season I was awarded female MVP of the program and was utterly surprised and didn’t believe I deserved it… I didn’t lead games as game captain, I didn’t go out of my way to be the one up front, I just came into practice being me working my butt off and following through with my responsibilities. After self-reflection, I realized that is what our program is about. Our title of “captain” or a valued teammate, leader whatever you call it is given to someone that is now know I need to be confident in, and that is myself. I came in ready to work not for me but for my team, I care about the well-being of my cheer family. That internal commitment was oozing out of me and with that I earned the respect to lead and inspire my teammates to do the same.

2016/2017 season came around with force, because I learned from my obliviousness/passive leadership. I reflected on the impact I could have when I put my love for the program, experience, drive, and natural leadership qualities into more active and aware leadership style. That impact was quickly grasped by the program/ rest of my teammates and came with a lot of recalculating. I had to recalculated as I was put on a different team, small coed team.

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Small Co-ed is still in the CMU Cheer program just means the team is compiled of two all-girl groups (flyer, two bases, and a back-spot), and four co-ed couples (male base, female flyer). This small co-ed team was made up of individuals who have the most skills on the team, we each individually brought a lot to the table. Yet, the hardest thing we faced was being a team. I have been apart of many teams in my day all with different struggles, but this team was by far the most challenging. Challenging, to me doesn’t seem like the right word, because we were very good  just lacked the energy when times get tough. That last bit of energy that is needed when you are pushing your body to its limits. That would separate us from being really good to being unbelievable! Also, the challenge in dealing with different mindsets… Majority of the male team members tended to gravitate and respond to harsher more pass or fail type of coaching/leadership. Where majority of the female team members (myself included) gravitated and responded more to discussion based coaching/leadership and positive reinforcement.cheer 1

So, for myself as a leader on the team I had to deeply identify my audience, which I have never had to do before to that degree. I had to know how each person was motivated and be able to bounce back in forth helping, guiding and motivating my teacheer 2m members on 10-14 hours practice days. Once I understood my team members and was open about how I am best motivated, as well as how I’ve notice they were motivated it opened a channel of understanding throughout our whole team.

I was able to bring strong individuals together by looking deeper into their actions and tendencies and asking them how they prefer to be motivated.  We went from being a good team to an amazing team taking 5th in the Nation, and making CMU history. We brought our individual strengths to the table and the cohesive energy needed to break into the top 10. 

 

2016/2017 CMU Small Co-Ed season will be one I never will forget as it challenged me as a cheerleader and a leader. 

Service learning Reflection: Youth Advocacy

Through my college experience thus far I have had many volunteer opportunities. Just this year I have found my favorite volunteer opportunities to be that benefiting the younger generations.  Some of my favorite are listed below:

Being a CMU Cheerleader we get multiple opportunities to volunteer our time to teach younger generations the skills and training methods to be a collegyong champe cheerleader. We partner with Champion Force an organization with young girls and boys ages 8-18, from across the state that compete in all-star cheerleading. These teams come to us to enhance their skills. We get to work with these teams through five stations: tumbling, stunting, private coaching, baskets, conditioning. Working with these young girls I have had the opportunity to share my passion for cheerleading while teaching them the skills and
technique to be safe in this dangerous sport, as well as teach them exciting new skills.

This opportunity is hard work and you most definitely have to utilize patience, and strong clear communication. Yet, the reward is beyond what you could ever ask for. They end up looking up to you as a role model as they ask to get pictures with you after, come give you hugs, or evsufken tell you verbally how much you helped them. To be able to share a skill you have and love, and coach them through it as well is extremely rewarding.

Joining Alpha Kappa Psi, I have had the opportunity to participate and help elevate their new philanthropy Stand Up For Kids a non-profit organization that works to end youth
homelessness. We also work with other organizations that stand for youth advocacy. My first event that I tie blanketsparticipated in was decorating lunch sacks with inspirational quotes or happy pictures. As I got more involved in the Fraternity we have also volunteered our time and made tie blankets through an organize where they take donated tie blankets to liven up children’s hospital beds before they arrive.

Mentor /Mentee Reflection

The day I chose my mentee on mentor mentee selection day I had vowed to be the best mentor, role model, friend and support system I could be, whether she wanted me sometimes or all the time. Luckily she became, and is now one of my very good friends. Our relationship is a little different than others. We not only are bonded together through a family of Leader Advancement Scholars, but we are bonded together through another family, the CMU cheer team. So, I got a different opportunity to spend a large chunk of thekatekelly summer getting to know Kelly (my mentee 🙂 ). As we worked tirelessly through two-a-days, running through the heat, stunting in the elements and laughing as we attempted to walk up the stairs and ended up crawling to bed at night. We bonded as friends and teammates first. I never tried to force my “wisdom” upon her, I continuously reminded her I am always here for you and if I don’t know the answer I will find it for you. This happened all before many of my fellow cohort even have met their mentees. When my cohort and all of our mentees got to spend that quality time getting to know each other Kelly and I had been solidifying our relationship as we went on a mentor/mentee bonding trip to eagle village. We got very lucky in the process in which we got to know each other. retreat k an kkate and kelly

To be a mentor can be hard though, it isn’t like a Greek Life Big, Little relationship. We are mentors, someone for them to come to for advice and to share their experience and knowledge of how to be a campus leader, even to learn to get through college. I could go on and on about Kelly and I’s relationship and on how I’ve been blessed with a great friend and team mate, how proud I am of her and how she has done in her school work, and pursued getting involved on campus, but that’s not the purpose of this blog.

As a mentor I really scollage k an ktrived to make sure we first had mutual respect, we don’t have a large age gap and we are going through very similar things even though I’m a year older. By having mutual respect, we both are “allowed” to confide in each other. This is a two-way relationship in which my role is to help her get acclimated, understand the ways of the LI, the introductory way to get involved on campus. With mutual respect, I can look at her as a role model, as I hope she looks at me as a role model. We learn from each of our actions as leaders as we strive to figure out who we are as leaders. I am lucky enough that we can do this together and that in the quickly passing first year I have made a great friend that I know I’ll have for many year, but someone who I have taught to not be afraid to ask questions and find answers, to be confident in herself and her leadership learning process, and she has taught me that I am still in the learning process myself and that she has my back too. This is just the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship with a girl who I am blessed to have in my life that shares some of my passions, but is open to join me on our journey together to be the next generation of ethical leaders.

CMU Cheer: Trust the Journey

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As a CMU Cheerleader it is a great privilege. It takes a lot of hard work dedication and the ability to push yourself to a level you thought you could never reach. I already tried to write this blog once before and it was LONG way too long. I talked about my whole entire journey from the start to finish. I talked about the highs and the lows and the in between. It turned out to be more of a vent journal entry and I didn’t believe it embodied all I wanted to say about my experience. So I decided to sit on it for a while and have some time to even wrap my head around what I actually did to myself with my team for the past year or so. This past weekend I sat through the most beautiful 5 hour banquet that embodied the exact experience I wanted to share to all of you. Our cheer banquet highlighted MVP’s, Rookies of the Year, Spirit Awards, seniors, and our journey through nationals. We reflected all together why we do this crazy sport and put of minds and bodies though this. It’s because we love challenge, we love cheering for a school that we love more than anything, we build trust with one another that is unbreakable and we work for a single moment of 3 minutes on the national’s mat that gives you the feeling if you bottled up could power a whole city for a week or more! We become a family that will stand by your side through anything and will always be there. This crazy sport of cheer teaches you self-worth, confidence, how usually the only person standing in your own way is yourself, to reach for the stars even if you land on the moon, set goals and run after them with all you have, find passion, determination, love. Embrace pain, frustrating, let down, anger, nerves, emotions. Take it alllllll in and use it not just in cheer but your everyday life. Cheer makes you strong physically and mentally but getting there is a journey that you have to trust.

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Coming in as a rookies (first year cheering/freshman) I had no idea what to expect in a college cheer experience. High school cheer was all I knew, training to all be robots and we strived for perfection not necessarily to be the best individual we could be. To me that was fine I enjoyed the challenge that came from that, I personally found ways to push myself farther. High school cheer wasn’t for everyone. Three rounds of 1minute 30 second routines of robotic, yelling, movements. Round one motions and jumps, round 2 skills, round three tumbling and stunts (my favorite). High school cheer gave me a great foundation for college cheer. I knew body positions and where in myself to find mental toughness and determination. College cheer is a whole new story. We cheer for multiple sports teams but we also train for our national’s competition. We work months and months on a 3 minute routine. We stay at CMU over Christmas break training usually seeing our family only for a week. We do skills that look insane, we launch girls in the air, and tumble like crazy. At the end it’ll be the most amazing thing you’ll ever see but it isn’t always like that…

We start by seeing if we even make the nationals team. Myself I didn’t, I was an alternate so I would go to all the practices learn anything I could and get thrown in if anyone got hurt. It was stressful, there was no way to really prepare you for the text you get form coach saying today you’re going in. That first practice was a nightmare. I ran around the mat like a chicken with my head cut off. Trying to listen to directions of where I was supposed to go, I was excited but was terrified. Especially being thrown into a group with a vet 4th year (2 year cheering or more) flyer. With me coming in she had all rookies underneath her. She wasn’t happy and I was scared, intimidated and wanted to cry. IMG_1475Trying to find a group of 4 girls who mesh with each other to make a stunt group (a stressful period for any rookie) is a big process but being thrown into a group that doesn’t seem to want you, there is no words to describe. That is where my journey started officially.IMG_1590

My group trained and trained and pushed through pain and struggle. Turning out to be one of the most elite and consistent groups on the team–front and center. I was pushed to levels I never thought could be at physically and mentally. I pushed through my flyer and back spot getting hurt 2 weeks before nationals. My base and I forming a bond that will never sever.IMG_1521 Together physically and emotionally had to go through a week and a half I wish I could forget. To them coming back and putting on a show of a life time. Taking 5th in nation in semi’s to 9th in the nation over all out of 20+ teams. IMG_1506 IMG_1520A place the CMU All Girl Cheer hasn’t been at in years. It made every hour in the gym worth it. Every hit to the face, bump, bruise, tear, frustration and feeling like it wasn’t possible worth it. We made CMU Cheer history by taking both and All-Girl team (Me) and a Large Coed team to nationals and both making it to finals. IMG_1486We are now one of the top 40 schools to cheer at in the nation. I am a part of the family that all together wants to make this program and themselves better. I get to be a part of the start of huge pivotal changes in this program and wouldn’t change it for the world. I am and always will be a better person from this experience and I thank my coaches and this team for that. I bleed maroon and gold, CMU Cheer and everything this program stands for. FIRE UP CHIPS!!!IMG_1512