Your Daughter Won’t Fly Forever

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.

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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 adaptableBe 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.

Author: Jason Larkins

My name is Jason Larkins and I am the Cheer Director at American Kids Sports Center. I am married to the most beautiful woman in the world and I love sharing my knowledge and experiences with the kids and families I work with and being a part of making their lives better.

24 thoughts on “Your Daughter Won’t Fly Forever”

  1. Great information for CheerMADs-Cheer Moms and Dads! Thank you Jason for giving us the coach’s perscpective!

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  2. Jason you nailed it!!! I was the mom of a flyer who was lucky enough to fly from the age of 4 to 21 but she was also one hell of a base at a final height of 5-3″ she could base and teach basing with the best of them, and she enjoyed it. But we saw this happen all the time with cheer parents, I missed going to a lot of practices because it got old hearing mommy speak in the viewing room about how their child was the best one out there and how they deserved this or that, for me that killed some of the camaraderie that the parents and girls should have enjoyed together because it was a constant claw to the top, literally. Something I have always told my daughter, if you have to tell someone how good you are, you aren’t nearly as good as you think you are, let your talent and inner strength always speak for itself”.

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  3. Amen Jason! Ali Schulte never flew but she goes all out as the best backspot she can be and is proud of keeping any flyer in the air!

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  4. You certainly nailed it! I feel sorry for you coaches. You surely cannot please everyone. Sometimes you have to make tough decisions for the betterment of the team. Some parents don’t see the whole picture, just their little princess. And some live in a fantasy world, or try to live vicariously through their children. Parents need to step back and think of sports like their child’s high school education. It is better for them to be well rounded and participate in clubs and sports in school. It makes them better students and increases their likelihood of successful entry to college and better prepared for life in general. Sports are no different. Being able to be a versatile, well rounded, adaptable athlete makes your child a better athlete. So glad that people like you are sharing your blogs with the world. If only more parents would read them!!

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  5. Yes!!! Your gift for articulating difficult subjects shines through again. I personally love the reminder on what is a reflection of parenting!

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  6. Jason, this was perfect! Reading this just reminded me how blessed we are that you coached our daughter at CBU, and how much we miss you. I hope you continue to bless the lives of many athletes out there!!!

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  7. I think this is great. Paisley is just happy to cheer! It doesn’t matter what or where she’s doing it! She thinks it’s so cool that she get’s to do stunts and be a side spot! Although she’s only 6, I’m pretty sure this will never change. She will always be happy just to be on a team and cheering everyday until she falls asleep lol.

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  8. This is a great article and agree with the perspective.
    Do you have anything written on the showmanship and attention that the flyers receive vs the back door or tumbler?
    Similar to football, the QB and RB get the attention while the nose tackle and blockers get little fan fare.

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  9. You nailed it! My daughter was a flyer from 9-13 and now is both a main and secondary base. She says being a flyer made her a better base because she knows what the flyer is feeling. She’s also sporting a bruised cheek this week because her flyer is never gonna hit the floor if she has anything to say about it! Every position is valuable, they are all dependent on one another to create the prettiest picture. Sure pulling that scorpion is cool, but she wouldn’t be able to do it if the people under her don’t do their job. Love this!

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  10. Great read my daughter’s Nick name is Main base swag. Lol she loves her job and can assist base as well…she feels her flyer is only strong as it’s bases it’s there job to keep her in the air and safe!…were we come from its a team effort our couches make sure the kids know and understand that. “U can’t build a house on a shaky foundation “

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  11. I feel like I must be the only Mom that entered AS Cheer, not knowing the different stunt positions and their role on a team… All I knew, at my daughter’s first practice I witnessed a girl on top of a pyramid and she fell really hard to the mat, and at the end of that practice, I asked that coach to never place my daughter in that position…I never wanted my daughter to be a flyer, and I was glad that her body grew fast…

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  12. This is a great read but I don’t agree completely. The reason flyer spots are sought after is because at competitions the flyers get the best pics, the glory, the spotlight. So these girls don’t feel as important unless they are flying. I have taught my daughter that the flyers are nothing without their bases. But try telling your daughter that day in and day out. It gets old quick.

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  13. Yes-flying is neat but adaptability is important. What I enjoy most is seeing the positive energy and great smile that my daughter, Ali brings!
    Very nice article!!!

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  14. Great article and perspective. As I read this I will provide an additional perspective from a mom who has a 4’11 flyer/main base and a level 5 tumbler. Having been in this sport with her for 14 years I have seen it all. She is a triple threat and does a great job in any position! I can support the perspective when it makes since and is fair. It’s when coaches choose to make decisions regarding flyer positions that become personal and clearly there are better flying choices but instead because ‘Sally’ has flown forever or ‘Sally’ is the coaches daughter, choices are made at the expense of the team to keep ‘Sally’ in the air. This is when you get upset parents. So coaches who take similar approaches recognize that decision won’t be popular. Because in other competitive sports like it or not, the better player is on the floor/field unless a penalty puts them on the sideline. Cheer parents just ask for the same. Because remember, it takes a full stunt group. The best bases can make a mediocre flyer look not so bad and a horrible base group can make a great flyer look not so good. And remember coaches assemble the stunt groups! 😘

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  15. I am a proud cheer Noni of a flyer… I do understand that she will not fly forever. Our gym has many teams… All levels. Destiny has learned every position and I instill the hard fact that EVERYONE is important. She can’t fly without her bases/spots and others can’t fly without her baseing/spottting…. It doesn’t matter where you are or what your doing… If you don’t do your job… You all fail.
    She loves her crossover position as much as she loves to fly.
    Cheer mom’s are the worst… I tend to move to another room when they gather!!!
    Thanks for this article!!! It is SPOT on!!!

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