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I wisely wrote this text before championships because I wanted it to be unbiased by my own team’s or anyone else’s performance at nationals. Whatever your competition experience was like this past weekend, here’s some tips on how to transition into your next season.
The importance of the process
Sometimes, we fall into what I call season-thinking. When we’re having a rough year, it’s easy to think “Let’s just get this season over with so we can start fresh”. Sometimes, when you had a great year, you might say “That was the best year ever, and now it’s over! So sad!”. Although this holds some truth, it’s a dangerous way of thinking.
Keep in mind that your cheer carrier does not end and restart every year. It’s an ongoing journey. What is your ultimate goal? Do you want to have lots of great seasons with your team? Do you want to be Swiss Champion? Do you want to make the national team and go to Worlds? Define a personal goal for yourself.
Make a list of all the good and the bad things that happened to you this season. Reflect on how you handled those situations, and how they brought you closer to your ultimate goal. Then, add to that list the things you want to improve in your next season. Here’s an example.
“I had to switch my stunt group mid-season because someone got injured. I was sad, because I loved my stunt group, but it turned out to work well in the end.”
- This taught me to stunt with different bases than what I’m used to
- This taught me that sometimes I have to accept hard decisions and do what’s best for my team
- This taught me to trust in the decisions of my coach
- Next season, I will keep an open mind in regards to changes. I won’t be sad when things change, because I know it’s for the best of the team and it improves my skills as an athlete.
- This brought me closer to my goal of being on a national team, as I always need to be prepared to stunt with people from different clubs with different techniques and timing.
By doing this, you acknowledge the importance of your learning process and your development as an athlete, not only physically but mentally.
How to handle victory
You reached all your goals this year? You had a flawless routine at championships? Maybe you even won your category? Congratulations, you’re a champion! Pat yourself on the back and relax! The next season is going to be a breeze. After all, you’re at the top now, right?
Wrong. Of course you should be extremely proud of your achievement! You should tell everyone at least ten times how amazing your team is and how awesome your season was. You clearly deserve that. But after a few days of enjoyment, you need to reset your mind and get back into the gym.
Remember, it’s the process that counts. Medals and trophies are just the icing on the cake, a public acknowledgement of what you achieved during the season. But champions are made at practice, not on the competition floor. Reflect on all the things that made it possible for you to win: perseverance, grit, determination, teamwork, unyielding willpower and a healthy body. You took some big steps towards your goal this year. Think about your next steps! What areas can you still improve in? Where should you carry on as you did? Make a list, acknowledge your achievements, and get back to work.
How to handle defeat
There’s two very distinct ways to “lose” (=not placing where you wanted to be on the ranking). It’s very important for you to know the difference and to handle each situation correctly.
Reason 1: You had a bad competition day
You had an amazing season, great vibes with your team, and all of you worked your butts off all year. You know that you gave it your everything in every practice. Your stunt hit 10 out of 10 in practice. Then, for some odd reason, things fell apart on the competition floor.
Every cheerleader can tell you that frankly, “shit happens”. Why else would teams with 10+ years of experience and 20 hours of training a week drop stunts even at world championships? This applies to all kinds of sports. Why did Simone Biles, who had a perfect competition record, fall at the Olympics in the balance beam finals? Because shit happens. You get one chance at competition, and the judges don’t care if you did 10 flawless routines last week. But YOU should care.
If you can honestly, from the bottom of your heart, say that you did everything you could have done to prepare, don’t dwell on what happened at championships. We all know what it feels like, and it happens to the best of the best. Instead, enjoy the memories of the past season. One bad day doesn’t eradicate 364 good ones. Focus on your ultimate goal. This season was an extremely important stepping stone for you, because now you know what you’re already capable of and what you could potentially achieve with another year of practice. Take a critical look back, draw your conclusions and see where you can improve, then come back swinging!
Reason 2: You had a bad season
It’s time to reassess your priorities. If you do cheerleading just for fun, then you’re probably not sad about your placement, and you shouldn’t be! After all, you’re competing in the same categories as the athletes who dedicate their lives to it. So this doesn’t apply to you. If you want to be great though, the situation is different.
Here’s where it gets hard, but I’ll be blunt with you. If you prepared poorly, and you competed poorly, there’s no reason for you to be upset. You chose not to do that workout that your coach told you to do. You chose to miss practice, to stand around and talk instead of working, to waste precious time in training by acting up or being sulky. There’s no reason for you to be upset about your placement: You chose the path that led you there.
Ask yourself, and be very honest. Do you want to invest blood, sweat and tears and give up a large portion of your free time to achieve greatness, or do you just want to see yourself with a trophy? If it’s the latter, I have bad news for you. That’s not how it works, and it’s not going to happen. If you’re not prepared to deliver what it takes, sit down with your coach before the next season and tell them to put you on a team that is less competitive. She will be grateful for your honesty, and you will be able to continue being in the sport without holding back members who want more.
But maybe, just maybe, you realize that you actually do have goals in the sport, and that you want to start improving your process. Then, my friend, the best journey of your life will start today (and I mean today, as in right now, not tomorrow when you’re less tired). Write down your goals. Think about where you want to go, and think about the work it takes. Are you prepared to do all this? To step out of your comfort zone, sacrifice your time and really get to it? Then get started right away. Contact your coach, tell them that you want to turn your motivation around, and ask them what it takes for you to make the team and actually be an asset. Don’t expect it to be easy, because it won’t be. But it will get easier, because your mind will adapt just like your body. If you set your mind firmly, you can do it. I believe in you, your coach believes in you, your team believes in you, and you should too. Now go get ’em, tiger!