Justin Carrier of NCA/Varsity Brands sent the following email about Sportsmanship recently:
It seems like the 2008-2009 season just kicked off, but yet I’ve already been to a dozen NCA/NDA and Varsity Championships. It’s exciting to watch our sport continue to grow…it’s exciting to watch our coaches become more experienced, our athletes become more advanced, and the routines become more dynamic. I’ve enjoyed almost every moment of these events.
Yes, I said “almost every moment”. There is one aspect of the championships that continues to disappoint me, and that’s the awards ceremony. Generally speaking, many athletes in the following two groups would benefit from improving their sportsmanship – the teams that don’t win Nationals and the teams that do.
I miss the days when our cheerleaders were PROUD and ecstatic just to place Top 5 in the Nation, or the days when being one of the Top 2 Teams in the Country was a dream come true. I was lucky enough to be ranked third my last year cheering all-stars. I remember getting off the plane after that trip and calling all my friends and family members to tell them about this huge accomplishment. I was on the THIRD BEST CHEERLEADING SQUAD IN THE NATION.
I really don’t see that today. For the most part, I see utter devastation. As a competitive coach, I realize the importance of training a team to ‘win’ and to strive for first place. It’s in doing so that we tap into an athlete’s true potential. While they may not always be fortunate enough to land in the top spot, they at least train like a champion and will continue to improve and progress. We need to revive the notion that it is OK to be proud of 2nd place.. or 3rd place… or 4th place or 5th place.
Teams shouldn’t just celebrate the ranking at that particular event, they should celebrate the hard work, dedication, and sacrifice it took to get where they did. We can’t ignore the message being sent. There’s a right time to take a hard look at what could have been done better, but I don’t think it is at the competition. Everyone benefits from celebrating what teams accomplish and enjoying their time spent at any competition – parents, kids, and coaches. Parents will see positive attitudes, solid life lessons, good work ethics, and decide this sport is where their kids should stay.
On the flip side, teams fortunate enough to win 1st place aren’t giving 2nd place their due respect. At every event, when the 2nd place team is called out, the winning team is so quick to begin their celebration that the moment of glory for the 2nd place team is lost. Teams who place 2nd in the nation deserve to celebrate their huge accomplishment with the crowd. This is the standard award ceremony behavior we have bred as coaches. Our challenge to the National Champions is to WAIT for the 2nd place team to be recognized, congratulated, and celebrate before you begin your own celebration. It shows discipline, self-control, and appreciation for your competitors.
This sport is something we’re all proud to be part of. The life lessons that come along with all-star cheerleading will stay with these kids long after they’ve retired from our sport. Remember that sportsmanship starts with us. At NCA, we’d love to be part of this project and we challenge every coach to ‘step up their game’ and step up their sportsmanship.
For those of you that will be at our All-Star Nationals next month, good luck in your final weeks of preparation. We look forward to celebrating this competition season with you.