My first year of coaching all-star cheerleading, on the first day of practice, we walked into our team of 20 girls ready to get things started. It was your typical first day of practice; we started off with introductions, eventually got into a little tumbling, and finally, it was time to stunt. Again, however, being our first day, we really didn’t know any of the athletes on the team; we didn’t know who the flyers were, who based, or anyone’s strengths, or weaknesses.
So we did the classic coach move, “Alright ladies, line up shortest to tallest.” That’s when we found out that most of our girls were the same height. Ok, plan b. “If you’re a flyer, step forward.” That’s when we found out that most of our girls were flyers as well. Hmmm… And this is not an exaggeration, every athlete who stepped forward as a flyer, who eventually didn’t fly on that team, resulted in a parent meeting, literally. Every. Single. One. And it’s been happening ever since, at every gym across America.
What’s the big fuss?
As coaches, we make personnel changes all of the time, last year you were a main base, now we’re going to have you secondary; last year you were a secondary, now we’re going to have you backspot. Last year you were a front spot, and now we’re going to have you fly. All of those things happen regularly, and no one complains about a thing or thinks twice about the move, but when a flyer is asked to try a new position, at best it results in a parent meeting, at worst, a Facebook bash and the athlete cheering at another program entirely. I now know that if I decide to take a flyer out of the air, I should be prepared to lose her as an athlete altogether.
So why does this happen?
Check your Instagram bio or your daughter’s twitter bio, and most likely they look something like this, “Mom of two wonderful angels 👼👼,” and/or “American Cheer Jr Blue 💙, Justin is bae 😍.” The things we put in our bios are how we choose to identify ourselves, and our self-identity is how we view that we bring value and worth into this world. What I’ve noticed over the years is that flyers, more than any other position in cheerleading, root a lot of their personal self-worth and self-identity in being not just a cheerleader, but being a flyer. And I hate to say this, but a lot of parents root their self-identity in the athletic success of their children. Which is why when a flyer is taken out of the air, coaches have an email in their inbox that night.
What can be done?
Parents, help athletes understand their true value, that they are significant in this life whether or not they are a flyer or not, whether or not they cheer or not, and that they aren’t any more or any less important, valuable or significant because of their position or status on the team.
Parents, my challenge to you is that you prep your little flyer that she won’t fly forever, and that that’s okay. The reality is that life is ever moving and ever changing. We’ve all heard the mantra, only the strong survive! But I don’t agree with that, it’s not always the strongest or the smartest who survive, but those who are most adaptable. Be sure to read my blog on team sports, because that’s what team sports are about, sacrificing the Me for the We. Sometimes what’s best for the team is for an athlete to fly, and the next year it’s best for her to base, and the next it’s best for her to go from a Sr team to a Jr team (that’s a whole other blog in itself). But parents, based on my experience, few cheer athletes fly their entire cheer careers and I really think coaches and parents alike need to help our flyers realize that because the day will come when she is no longer a flyer. Either because the position has become too stressful for her, too advanced, she’s outgrown the position, or just flat out she isn’t cheering anymore, either way, the day is coming, don’t let it sneak up on you and devastate your little princess.