HOW TO TALK TO CHEERLEADERS (FOR MAXIMUM RESULTS)
Sorry everyone this isn’t a blog on how to get a phone number or score a date for the weekend. We’re talking to coaches and parents about how to effectively communicate with your athlete to get the best results - skills, performance, behaviour, efficient practices.
“Earth to Cheerleader, do you copy”
Does it feel like you’re sometimes talking to a brick wall wearing a bow? Did you tell your team exactly what to do in 4 counts of 8 and they were lucky enough to hit 1?
WHAT MAKES COACHING A CHEER TEAM UNIQUE?
Many-to-one: Individual sports (gymnastics, tennis, golf) are a 1:1 or small ratio training environment where coaches can give very detailed and personal feedback on an individual level. There is one of you and 12, 20, sometimes 30 of “them”.
Different positions: aka pandemonium. Flyers do A, bases do X, backspots do Z all at the same time. We know that soon as one person is not across the counts the whole stunt goes pear shaped. As a coach we need to be aware that each position requires individualised directions at times.
We all learn differently: Even you as a coach have your preferred learning style. Whether you prefer to hear instructions, see it happen or try it for yourself or a combination - it’s important you are aware of each athlete’s preference - Officially referred to as auditory, visual or kinesthetic learning styles
Varying ages: All-star teams will vary as the age categories put 7 to 14 year-olds together, 11 to 18 year olds together! That’s a huge gap in learning and development. We assume you have placed athletes who are cognitively and emotionally fit to participate on the right team, however some learning and communication habits do come down to age.
Here’s our A.B.C.D.E tips for getting through to the masses
A. THE "ALL APPROACHES APPROACH".
When describing anything unfamiliar: To a new team, a new warm-up, new skill or changed sequence be sure to interact with your athletes to satisfy all learning styles. Describe it (auditory) with step-by-step instructions and simple cues and... Show it yourself or use an example group (visual) and…. Have the athletes feel it (kinesthetic) as a mark through on the ground.
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. If you’re hearing crickets in the cheer gym try another approach.
As athletes get older they can generally learn to decipher just one approach which is not always their preferred, however, if an athlete is just ‘not getting it’ this is your problem to solve. Your first response should be to try a different approach or use different words to describe the skill.
Like the Instagram app... do/say it back. Be OK with asking your team for confirmation that they understand your instructions on the spot. “What were those counts?”
"Tell me what count you dip on"
"Show me what count you dip on."
"If I was a flyer what do I do?"
"What does the back spot do on 5?"
The key-words that we can all remember and that make sense to the team. Some are just counts which we emphasise, ie “everyone yell THREE on the three count when you set for the backwalkover.” Others are may be more silly, but work, ie “I want you to shoot up like a geyser on THREE before you do your back-walkover so everyone, I want you to make the sound ‘SHOOMP’ as you stand up to show me you remember.” Apply whatever helps them remember a very important count at the team level.
The rule here is use the least amount of words (and therefore time) to give an instruction. It’s a very old habit to break, but you will see amazing results when you focus 100% on describing what you want out of the athletes, and not what you don’t want! “I want you to dip on 5, keep your legs straight and be clean on 1”
“I want you to dip on 5, keep your legs straight, don’t bend them, then clean on 1 - Not 2, 1"
You are now a coach-slash-soap star. If you are describing a stunt - use yourself as the example and move the way you want the base to move or accentuate the way you want the flyer to hit! For an athlete to see the emphasis you put into your descriptions will help them assess how much effort they must put into their own performance. This is critical for athletes who aren’t quite across the whole ‘performance and execution’ thing.
Be honest with your current performance or get a colleague to check your natural coaching approach against these hints. CheerConditioning.Academy guarantees that if you focus on simple, appropriate and concise instructions across all relevant senses (sight, sound, feel) - you will get your team on the same page and moving through your next training session quick smart. Our CheerConditioning.Academy experts are coaches themselves and can sympathise - but we have a solution! For more coaching hints you need to get yourself a copy of Body Before Skill: Sports Performance for Cheerleading