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In a sport where trophies, jackets, and rings speak louder than words; some can lose sight of what is most important; the athlete.

As coaches we have all been there: we get close to hitting the new stunt that will increase our difficulty score and give us a better chance to win.. FOR JACKETS! Then when we repeat the stunt a few times it all comes crashing down in a ball of flames, bruises, and tears.

Competition is a week away. Athletes, parents, administration and sometimes the whole community really wants that win… but we know it’s not consistently safe. What do we do?

It’s not an easy task being a coach. Representing an entire program and a community. Feeling the pressure from everyone for the team to succeed. From the outside, towering trophies and banners are the coaches reward - as well as having the opportunity to represent the team, gym, school or town name.

But is that a coach's job? To win at all costs?

No: winning CAN be the result of many factors aligning correctly.

Our job, is to align all these factors whilst taking care of our athletes.

Cheerleaders Partner Stunting

Emanuel Berthe Photography


In cheer, a coach can be assigned to a new team that's starting from ground zero. No worthy skills. No championship pedigree. Yet the team they coached previously won the Super Grand World Inter-Galactic Elite Extreme Championships 5 years in a row.. therefore THE ONLY OPTION IS WINNING! The pressure from these expectations can have the opposite effect: they build up in our heads, boil over and can result in "failure". And when competitions are just around the corner, we all feel it.

Of course, no one comes into a competition and doesn’t want to win. But how do we define winning? Is winning a short-term goal, or is it defined by your athlete’s longevity and ongoing success? Most importantly, if you achieved YOUR team goals, does your feeling of success get erased because another team managed to get a higher score?

Is your feeling of success determined by a piece of clothing, jewelry or a pile of shiny plastic? Or is winning defined by achieving your team's goals regardless of what other teams put on the floor?

Winning is a great plan, but we need to redefine what it means. Plug your ears, cover your eyes, and block out the extraneous voices that are whispering “Grand Champs” - because you could end up hating your job if that's all you're dreaming about at night.


When you look at an established, prestigious team it can seem that their plan is to "Win everything all year long! Forever!" - yet this is not a goal, but the RESULT of a process that starts with realizing where you / your team are on that journey. Before dreaming, we need to be realistic. WHERE ARE WE?

Sentiments aside, try to collect OBJECTIVE information together: Physical and mental condition of your athletes. Flexibility, strength, stamina, ability to learn. Stunts, tumbling, jumps, dance: current skill and ability. Weaknesses. Strengths. How many athletes can do which skills? ALL OF IT.

Be strategic and see in relation to position what is needed: how many flyers, bases, tumblers, etc. and compare that with your score-sheet quantities to help you gauge your scores. Write it all down to have a "big-picture" view of your team or programme.

Cheerleaders Stunting At First Practice

Emanuel Berthe Photography

By doing this methodically you can also create a plan for each athlete, based on what your schedule allows. This can include supplemental classes, flexibility and strengthening workouts (which CheerConditioning.Academy can help you with), and where developmentally they should be within their skill progressions.


Coaches all have certain goals that make us who we are and determine our coaching style. Setting goals for yourself as well as goals for your teams , breaking them up into time periods such as first practice, first competition, and so on..

After setting these; ask your athletes to do the same. Ask for both realistic and unrealistic "dream" goals: many times something they thought impossible is actually very attainable. Once these have been collected (in a binder or a big board) you can then help your athletes to give them steps of what they need to complete in order to achieve each goal. Each step will help create intrinsic motivation and meaning on their journey.


Now that we have an action plan, what’s left? The road map to help us get there. The more you’re able to plan, the easier you can reach it because you have a logical plan. More so, it allows you to really keep athletes engaged and on point when they know what precedes and succeeds each step.

Cheerleader studying her season plan

Emanuel Berthe Photography

“If you’re failing to plan, you’re planning to fail.” - Wise words from Benjamin Franklin.

Start with your timeline: establish your season length and each important checkpoint that you wish you divide your steps into. Both big-picture and individual steps to create your action plan the easier it will be to plan each practice. (CheerConditioning.Academy has a ready-made Cheer Season Planner template here for all members).

Ensure you keep updating your team’s goals and progress throughout the season so you know you're always on point, and realistic to where you're standing.


We know where we started! We know where we are! AND, we know where we are going! It sounds like the season is ready to roll.. so make sure you're putting the plan into action. Keep your season / weekly / daily plan handy in a place you can easily give it a quick check. A plan is pointless if it lives in the bottom of a pile of binders or in an obscure folder on your laptop.

As you progress, avoid skipping steps to reach your goals faster. When you’re closest to attaining a skill or goal it can be tempting to skip ahead. DON’T! WAIT! TRUST YOUR PROCESS! (If you haven’t already, check out our previous CTT on How to Make Your Cheer Practice More Efficient)

When you skip steps, you lose consistency and weaken the foundation needed to build more skill. Work on mastery of each step. This isn’t just for progression of individual skill, but will helping the program build an attitude of mastery. A habit of owning skills turns into a culture of becoming champions.

Your current athletes are your future.

The younger aspiring athletes looking up to them, are your next future.

It starts now.

Cheer Team Performing

Emanuel Berthe Photography


As a coach we've all been there.

That’s why we were hired or took on this opportunity to lead this group to greatness.

To create a culture of hard work that leads to winning. The first year (or yearS) will always the most challenging. Through consistency, passion, planning, and positivity; a championship culture will follow.

Never let the extraneous voices deter you from doing things the right way for your athletes.

They are why we do this. Their future. Their love for the sport and their yearning to get better.

Seize the opportunity for them, and give them tools to continue that success past the medals and trophies. If they grow up and want to be a coach just like you, they will do it the right way for their own athletes. The change starts today, within each and every one of us. YOU can be the stone that starts the ripple effect.

This article was brought to you by Justin Schneider from CheerConditioning.Academy - as a member of the academy you can access a number of resources to help bring your team's skills to the next level: not just in respect to your skills and conditioning, but also to help grow your leadership & team success!