What Parents, Athletes and Coaches need to know about WINNING!

By Coach Chris Highbrown – Xcel 360, Founder

Don’t Let Success Go To Your Head and Failure To Your Heart

~Will Smith

Is Winning The Most Important Part of All Stars?

Of Course Not! I know the All Star Cheer World can seem tough at times… especially when many gyms and athletes make it all about WINNING. “We have won 153,657,7585,995 first places!” posted on the front pages of their websites. Is this really what All Star Cheerleading is all about?? If it is maybe I am in the wrong industry. Truth is… it’s not! Some of the most successful gyms in the world focus on perfection within the team’s performance and many other growth mindsets as well as skill building. They show up to perform their best and when they hit… then they have a chance to win. Winning is secondary to many other aspects of cheerleading and sports in general. It is one thing to be proud of your success but when you let it go to your head as a coach, parent or kid you begin to develop arrogance that leads to unintentionally/or intentionally treating others with no respect. I have seen some of the sweetest hard working kids do a complete 180 in their personalities just by what gym they have joined. They stick their nose up at people, act like they are so much better than everyone and become rude individuals that care only about themselves. I’ve seen parents do the same thing! There is a fine line between arrogant and confident and it is our job as coaches to teach our athletes this. We need to create confident humble athletes that work hard and enjoy their wins and learn from but not dwell on their failures and short comings. We need to teach our athletes to have a “growth” mindset instead of a “fixed” one. (Mindset – Carrol Dweck) Help them develop a mind that is able to accept failure and criticism for what it is and with an open mind improve themselves without getting down on themselves.

How do Parents Effect Performance?

Our job can be made much more difficult when we are battling conflicting ideals or beliefs of some parents and athletes. As a coach and as a Father, I understand very much why parents are very proud of their kids and want the world to know… that is perfectly natural! I love my daughter very much and want the world to know when she does something great! I do my best to teach her the importance of staying humble when she does something great and not getting down on herself when she fails at something. It was tough in the beginning and still at different moments but for the most part, at only age 5, she understands that a mistake or having some struggle doesn’t define who she is. Just the other day she had decided on her own that she wants to work towards improving those areas where she is weakest! I couldn’t have been more proud! She came to me and asked me to help her get her splits better because she has been struggling with flexibility and she wants to get better… a week before she would have broken down into tears if I had asked her to do her splits! I praised her for making that decision and I will still continue to praise her when she excels in areas that she is already efficient at as well!

In my 18+ years of coaching I have noticed a very important trend in the performance of child athletes. You have the a variety of parenting types as you can imagine but in order to simplify things I am going to explain it like this… Parent Types:

  1. Supportive but parents not “too involved”
  2. Supportive with parents that become “too involved”

We will assume that all parents are being supportive so parents 1 and 2 differ in the amount of involvement. HANDS DOWN no if, ands, or buts about it…. The kids with Parent 1 out perform the kids with Parent 2 9 times out of 10! I’ve seen so many examples of it you wouldn’t even believe it! I’m sure you’ve all seen it… you may even be that parent… peering through the parent lounge windows like a hawk watching every move, questioning the coaches decisions, judging what other kids are doing, comparing your kid to other kids, talking to your kid during every water break about what’s going on… You are hurting your kid’s performance more than you know! I can admit 1st hand to doing the same thing… I can’t help but correct my daughter. Its like a double edge sword… on one hand I need to leave her be and on the other if she doesn’t do well she is the daughter of the gym owner and how is that going to look on me. It is not fair to her so I do my absolute best to let her learn and enjoy herself without getting too involved no matter how tough it may be at times! So drop your kids off… let them learn and leave them be! Don’t worry about who did what, who said what, what went wrong… just talk to your kids about what went well and help them shift their mind set from negative to positive. If something went wrong… ask them what they themselves could have done better to improve it… use it at a “Teachable Moment.”


Failure… or a Teachable Moment?

At the first competition of the season this year we had a few teams that did not perform up to the level that they were capable of. We took the kids outside and used it as a teachable moment. The kids were very down on themselves because all they were focused on was the fact that they didn’t win. They forgot about the fact that more things went right than went wrong, it was their first competition, they persevered regardless of what went wrong and they can use this day as a way to improve individually and as a team. We ended that talk with Will Smith’s quote “Don’t Let Success Go to Your Head and Failure To Your Heart.” The kids understood and left us in higher spirits! Proud of what they accomplished rather than dwelling on the mistakes. This mindset shifted the teams into working harder to achieve their goals and every team over the next two competitions (only separated by less than a month) dramatically increased their scores and walked away with wins and impressive high scores on the score sheet including a Judges Choice Award for Highest Basket Tosses. One team hit almost a perfect score on the score sheet! Overcoming adversity, coming together as a team and finding success together is what being a team is all about!

So Then… What could be bad about Success!?!?

When it goes to your head! A very simple way, as it pertains to Cheer, is by over celebrating a 1st place win… There is a time and place for the celebration. When it carries over into practice you lose valuable practice time to athletes thinking they are too good to work hard now. They get the “We’ve Arrived” or complacent mindset that causes them to no longer grow as athletes because they feel they are “too good.” They become what we call “unteachable” athletes. An example of this would be during an attempt to fix an improper basing technique the athlete swears his/her way is better and it worked fine so he/she doesn’t want to change it. Now they have become “unteachable” because they know best. Even if you get them to change something they put a lack of effort in because they don’t want to make the change to begin with. It is very difficult to stop the kids from getting “big heads.” They are proud and rightfully so but they must learn to stay humble as well. The mentality of “if you’re not first you’re last” is not what we are about and instills arrogance in the kids and the entire program. How does a comment like that make the kids on the other teams feel? Or how about when your team isn’t in 1st place… does that mean none of your hard work, teamwork, friendships, accomplishments…etc have any value? No one wins all the time… even the extra large gyms that have this “celebrity like” status have losses too. What makes a program strong and meaningful is how they react to wins and losses as a program… as a family! If all you want is a first place trophy or a banner you can order personalized ones online MUCH cheaper and MUCH less work! All Stars is about the struggle, the climb, the hard work, perseverance, determination, confidence, friendships, mental and physical strength building, teamwork and plain old win, lose or draw… FUN!

We have all seen the parent who screams and yells during a little league game at the kids, other parents, coaches, and referees… what does that teach the kid? It teaches them that if they don’t win they are not important or significant when that couldn’t be further from the truth. They end up burned out and have no desire to participate in the sport anymore… Or how about the parents and athelets that “chase” the win switching from team to team or gym to gym even moving to new cities and states trying to find a winning team only to find out the team they originally started with becomes the greatest in the country winning every national title available and they missed it because they forgot what was truly important. Working together to accomplish a goal… as a team… as a family… against all odds and with a unified passion and love for what they do!

Why Do We Do What We Do?

We don’t do this job to just win all the time because that is not a realistic goal. Very rarely do teams go entire seasons undefeated and the teams that do you will find some of the most humble and self motivated athletes you have ever met. Coach Jen was on ACE All Stars in 2002 on a team that went undefeated and then went on to win AmeriCheer Nationals in Orlando 2 years in a row. Their practices after winning consisted of growth as a team and left the celebration at the competition where it belongs. When at practice they were back to analyzing performance and improving the already successful team… finding areas to improve and grow completely avoiding complacency.

Those stories do exist but they are few and far between. That is not why we do this job… We do this job because of the rewards we receive everyday! When a kid gets their first kick over after working at it for so long or a group hits a stunt they struggled with for months… or an entire team comes together to hit a routine that a short time before was so difficult they thought it would never be possible! We do this job for many reasons but mostly because we care very much for our athletes and their families and want to see each child grow into successful young adults who contribute to the community in a positive way. If after all my years of coaching and hard work I am able to impact even 1 kid’s future in a positive way then it makes every bit of the hard work, stress, and frustration completely worth it! I will challenge the kids mentally and physically to make them stronger athletes and stronger people. Strong confident people don’t get bullied by others or by setbacks in life… Strong confident people see setbacks as challenges to overcome on their road to personal success. We want to give the kids something more to aspire to than just winning a Cheer Competition!

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