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On coaching kids & this year's season

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I have been a rec cheerleading coach for six years now, coaching six or seven different teams in cheerleading, and usually kindergarten through second graders (but I have worked with the third through sixth group a few times). I originally sought out this opportunity because I needed volunteer hours for my sorority, but it turned into something much more than that...I got nearly double the hours I needed and I continued to coach once I graduated college. Coaching youth cheerleading is near to my heart, and I am pursuing teaching because of it. 

This season has been full of trials and is a very interesting one that might potentially be my last year coaching cheerleading for many years. Next fall I hope to be teaching in a classroom and I won't want to put anything else on my plate. Also, the current cheerleading coordinator is retiring and therefore I may not get a call next year if they happen to be short on cheerleading coaches because the new coordinator may not know that I've coached in the past and am good at it. 

This year was very different than many of my past seasons, and not necessarily in a good way. Don't get me wrong, I have had a great group of girls and I have absolutely loved working with them and seeing them grow. 

This year, the rec department decided to move the cheerleading practices to a local elementary school versus having them in the rec department. This meant that we lost practices when school wasn't in session. Also, we didn't get to practice when the exhibition was postponed because the rec department hadn't planned to pay a gym supervisor; if we had been practicing at the rec department, this wouldn't have been a problem, as there would've been a staff member in the rec department. 

At the end of each season, the cheerleaders get to perform in an exhibition. It's the culmination of the season where they show off everything that they have learned. My first year coaching, it was an actual competition, where the rec department awarded places to the teams. (We got 2nd overall my first year.) The next year, they changed it to an exhibition, but the girls still performed their competition-style dance and cheer. This continued for years. Last year the exhibition wasn't on its own day, but was in between two games during the basketball tournament, which was admittedly a little less special, as the rec department used to make a full day of the event, inviting local high school teams to perform, too. This year there isn't going to be an exhibition, and to be honest, I'm both disappointed and relieved.

Another of the struggles of this season is the fact that we ended up with much less practice time than expected. The rec department had set a tentative date for the exhibition, and I calculated and counted on three more practices before the exhibition. The next week we were hit with our first major snow storm, and the rec department immediately cancelled everything, including my Sunday practice. The next week, they moved the exhibition up because one team couldn't make it, and I was down to one practice. I used that one practice to the best of my ability and made the girls practice for two hours instead of one, but we were still very shaky on our dance routine. I had counted on three practices, not one. We were hit by a second snow storm, so the exhibition was rescheduled again. 

The exhibition has been rescheduled at least four times. Last Friday evening, they cancelled the exhibition again, which was at the time scheduled for 3/12. They said they would reevaluate the date on Monday, and Monday morning I got an email that it was scheduled for the very next day. Not surprisingly, most of the coaches couldn't make the exhibition due to prior plans/short notice, so the rec department decided to cancel it outright. 

Part of me is incredibly disappointed. The girls worked so incredibly hard and learned so much this season. But on the other hand, I'm relieved. They didn't really know their dance routine, so I would've had to try to sit in front of them and do it with them. And I majorly shortened the long cheer, taking out the most fun parts: the cool signs and the knee stand stunt. 

We have one final game tonight. I will distribute the trophies and hand out the participation certificates. I have gone back and forth as to whether or not they should perform their dance routine. It's a mess, but I think I did a great job choreographing it. And they spent so much time working on it. I hate for them to have spent all of that time learning it for nothing. But the decision isn't just 100% mine. I want this season to be something special for the girls, too. One parent already sent me a message saying that her daughter loved the dance and wanted to perform it.

I'm not sure how it'll go, but if they want to do it, we will do it.

Because, after all, it's about the kids

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