It’s Friday night at the Cheer Pride All-Stars gym in Whippany, NJ. Coach Erin Shane signals The Summit-bound Junior Level 1 team to enter the gym. Clad in fire-colored practice gear with bows neatly placed on their crowns, 15 female athletes quietly line up in four rows, hit a “T” and prepare to perform a timing drill for jumps.
Shane begins to clap to the rhythm of her counting to keep the team’s unified left kicks timed to her beat. The team doesn’t flinch as she pauses to hit a strong, poised “T” to demonstrate proper motion technique. The squad reaches 20 kicks smoothly and quickly, then Shane continues the process again on the opposite side.
No matter what activity her athletes participate in, Shane is highly engaged. She spots tumbling, fills in for missing stunters and works out with the team at the end of practice—all after an eight-hour workday as a special education teacher at a North Jersey high school.
Not all coaches are able to master the juggling act as easily as Shane; after all, all-star cheer coaches are faced with the challenge of managing a winning squad all while balancing multiple jobs, families and personal time. In the face of overwhelm, it can be difficult for coaches to avoid falling into a “lazy funk”—an attitude that affects both the team and the gym as a whole.
“It is important that people learn hard work gets results,” said Jodi Gerhartz, co-owner of East Brunswick, NJ-based All Star Athletic Center.
She adds that irresponsible habits, such as sitting down or answering phone calls during practice, also play a role in lazy coaching behaviors. “I had a coach who was always sitting down, talking on her cellphone and yelling at the athletes,” Gerhartz shares. “I have zero tolerance for that type of coaching. I explained to her that the athletes did not respect her because she was not respecting what they are doing.”
Shane also believes lazy coaches “inevitably hurt the team, and the business will suffer. Athletes will have poor technique and skills, resulting in an inability to grow or be successful at competition. [Eventually,] athletes will leave the program to go where their coaches are an active part of the experience.”
Lazy coaching behaviors can also lead to financial loss, poor reputation and lack of indispensable leadership skills cheerleaders can learn from experienced instructors to become successful athletes, students and professionals in the future.
So how can coaches avoid the lazy funk? Start off right by energetically implementing the following tips in their routine at practices:
Stand up. Coaches must lead by active example. Gerhartz believes that on the “first day of practice [and beyond], coaches need to set the precedent. Stand up to coach, and work as hard as the athletes do.”
Plan ahead. Making a blueprint for practice ahead of time can truly pay off, says Shane, who suggests creating practice plans that change in activity every 30 minutes. Pre-planning helps coaches become more aware of what needs to be accomplished in practice—keeping their focus narrowed.
Cater to individual training needs. Every athlete learns differently, whether it be visual, auditory or kinesthetically. Taking the time to teach skills in different ways can help coaches maximize effectiveness—and avoid lazy tendencies in their effort to meet each athlete’s needs.
Ditch the digital world. Coaches must put the cellphones down during the practice to effectively observe their cheerleaders. Consider practice an opportune time to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses rather than respond to parent emails or gym gossip.
-Christina Hernandez is the founder of Rah Rah Routines, a consulting firm specializing in choreography, tumble lessons and routine consultations for cheerleading organizations. She is a cheerleading and tumbling aficionado who has led senior-level All Star teams to multiple local, regional, and national titles. She has more than 23 years of experience as a Pop Warner, high school and all star cheerleader and is contracted to work as a tumble instructor at several cheer and dance organizations in New Jersey. She is a longstanding choreographer for reputable recreation, high school and all–star competitive teams throughout the Northeast region and is a member of the American Association of Cheerleading Coaches and Administrators (A.A.C.C.A.), USASF and NFHS. She believes perfecting the fundamentals of cheerleading and tumbling are the key to achieving excellence. To find out more about Christina and her business, visit rahrahroutines.com