The recent postponement of the ICU, USASF and IASF World Championships, the Summit, and cancellation of the NCA College Nationals have lead to a lot of heartache, heartbreak and worry for athletes, coaches, gym owners and parents. Although objectively we all realize it’s for the best for our global community, the reality still stings, and it’s absolutely okay to feel sadness, anger and grief for what could have been.
While we wait to see what will happen with all-star competitions, how can we all help our athletes and teammates manage the disappointment?
COVID-19 has affected all sports, it’s not only cheerleading. From professional leagues to NCAA and high school, all student-athletes are in the same situation. Particularly heartbreaking for seniors, processing the loss of their final season can seem insurmountable. It’s not selfish to feel this way, on the contrary, it’s a healthy response to something you care about so deeply being suddenly taken away by circumstances beyond your—or anyone’s—control. For those seniors out there, and to all experiencing the abrupt end to your season, we ask you to draw on the life lessons you’ve learned as a cheerleader: to be a leader in your community, to be the light, and to be resilient in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
Cheerleaders don’t stop cheering when their team is down in the last quarter, and they don’t stop pushing because of a stunt bobble or touchdown. They keep going, they find a way. And now is the time, more than ever, to lean on your training and remember hard work, sacrifice, and leadership are important beyond the blue mat.
Once a cheerleader, always a cheerleader
The disappointment of this abrupt end of the season (or postponement) can’t be erased, but we can all help to mitigate the emotional rollercoaster, especially for younger athletes, seniors, and those who won’t get another chance to end a season on their terms. Take note of their body language. Does it look like they want comfort or just to cry it out and feel the loss? Sometimes just sitting next to someone and being a shoulder for them to cry on means more than words.
Acknowledge their right to be upset. In our sport we fall over ourselvess to reinforce ideas of good sportsmanship, not letting a second-place team show disappointment or a champion team celebrate too early. Please don’t let them feel like they need to swallow their disappointment and put on a brave face. It’s okay to be disappointed and it’s okay to feel bad. This isn’t fair for anyone, and they have a right to feel that way.
You are resilient, you can go fullout 2 more times, and you can get through this
One of the best qualities of a cheerleader is that there is always another way, and you can always push a little more. Whether that’s dropping a stunt 5 times to hit on the 6th, going fullout the last time (coach, we know you’re lying), finding your way through the fog of a mental block or coming back after an injury. We have our team, we have our coaches, we have our families, and we will get through this together.
Advice for coaches:
- Keep your GroupMe, Band or other group texts going with daily motivational quotes, encouraging teams to reflect on what this season has meant to them, and lean on your team leaders to keep them connected.
- Create daily workouts, challenges and conditioning to keep each other motivated and in competitive fitness (especially for worlds/summit athletes who may still get to compete later in 2020).
- Watch shows or movies together and schedule team chats during regular practice hours (Zoom.us is great for large group video calls!)
Advice for parents:
- Working from home with restless kids is going to be a stress test. Try to set a schedule for them as soon as possible so they know what to expect each day and normalize the situation.
- Take regular breaks from work to do something active with your kids and get fresh air if the weather permits.
- Disappointment, sadness, and irritability are normal for kids facing this disruption, but if it persists or you notice an abrupt change in their mental health or behavior, reach out for help. Teenagers especially are secretive by nature, having them under your roof is not an indication that they are safe. Bullying does not stop just because school has closed, and some mental health issues may be exacerbated by the crisis. It’s okay to not be okay, or to ask for help to help your child.
- Cabin fever, disappointment, and social distancing is tough. Remember you are a person, too, and you deserve time alone to meditate, watch a show, or browse your phone aimlessly. Take care of your own needs as well as your kids.
Advice for athletes:
- This sucks. It does. But it doesn’t mean you get to take it out on everyone around you.
- Keep active in your team group chats, encourage those younger than you and take a leadership role to motivate your teammates and keep their spirits up.
- Check-in on your quieter teammates who may not speak up about how they’re feeling.
- Stay active! Condition! Stretch! We don’t know whether this season is over yet, or when the next one will begin. Keep yourself competition fit so you can get right back to fullouts or throw your best skills for tryouts.
- Please, don’t do anything too extreme! If you’re lucky enough to have a trampoline, airtrack or tumble-trak, now is not the time to teach yourself new skills. Our hospitals will be busy handling those who need to be helped during the crisis; your ankle, knee, elbow, wrist… they may land you in the emergency room for hours and that’s not where anyone wants to be!
- Be gentle with yourself. If you feel your mental health taking a hit because of the shutdown, ask for help. Be brace. Talk to your parents, teammates, and coaches who all want to help you through this time. Your concerns are important, YOU are important.