It’s been a long time since I’ve written a blog post. I guess I’m making up for lost time by writing an extra-long one. I don’t know if anyone will ever read it but I think it was good for my mental health to write it:
There are so many things I love about being a cheer coach. I love working with kids and teens. I love teaching skills and watching kids improve on those skills year after year. I love working with (most of) the parents. I love being the one that parents come to for a “Coach Anne” talk with their child. I get this request at least a couple times a year to help encourage kids to do their homework consistently. I have no problem giving that talk…I know the importance of school.
I also love seeing my cheerleaders grow into wonderful, productive adults. I follow many of my former cheerleaders on social media as they go to college, get real-world jobs, get married, and have kids of their own. I even had my first “grand-student” last summer when one of my former cheerleaders brought in her daughter to an EDE camp. What a wonderful, full-circle moment! I’ve been coaching for 24 years now so I’m guessing more of these encounters are in my future. But there are also the things that I don’t like about coaching. I don’t like dealing with parents who yell at me, especially when I’ve been very clear about all the rules/requirements/whatever from the very beginning. I don’t like dealing with administrators that don’t respect what I do (luckily I don’t have any of those right now…whew! But I have in the past). But the biggest thing I hate about coaching? The occasional betrayal. It’s a big word, but I honestly don’t know how else to put it. Getting ghosted after spending years teaching and mentoring someone….well, there is no other feeling like it. And it HURTS. There have been a few of these over the years. I will give just a few examples, and the names have been changed. The first one was in my second year of coaching. And this one wasn’t a betrayal—Angie’s family was moving to another state. I’ve had several kids move over the years and it’s always hard to lose them. But I think this was the first one I had that was moving that I was really close to and absolutely loved. It tore my heart out knowing she wouldn’t be on my team anymore. Many more kids moved over the years and I have missed them all. But the first was Angie, and even 22 years later, she still holds a special place in my heart.
Another one was Kerry. She had been on the team for just over a year and had become one of our most integral and favorite members because of her kindness and great attitude. Two weeks before our biggest performance of the year (Seattle Storm), she emailed me and said she was quitting the team. She didn’t even give a reason other than she needed to study more. It made no sense. She had been one of the most devoted team members. She had even babysat my boys. And then out of nowhere, quit. Right before the end of the year! I was stunned. I tried calling both her and her mom—neither would answer. I left impassioned messages asking her not to do this right before Storm, to just do two more weeks. NOTHING. We had to change the routine and it resulted in one group not even being able to do their stunts because they were missing a base. Her selfishness affected her entire team and broke both my heart along with all of her teammates. The really odd thing is, I’ve run into her mother twice over the years since and she talks to me as though nothing happened—talks about how much Kerry loved being on my team. Does she think I don’t remember how they ended things? Does she think I don’t remember how Kerry royally messed up her teammates? Both times I’ve just smiled and nodded—not wanting to say anything I would regret. It’s been several years now but it still hurts.
The last example I’ll write about here is Leslie. She had been on the team since she was 12 years old and was now a senior in high school. She had done some junior coaching and summer coaching. She helped her teammates. The younger kids really looked up to her. She was fully involved in her teams and had always been reliable until this year. She started getting flaky, but we knew she had other commitments at school and were willing to accommodate. The real problem was her complete lack of communication—she would tell us coaches that she was going to be late for practice but then never show up. She would stop responding to texts and calls which led me to believe she had gotten in an accident on the way to practice since the last thing we heard was that she was on her way. It was frustrating to me as a coach, and exceptionally frustrating to her teammates. We made it through competition season and performed well despite these issues. But the lack of communication continued. And then…Leslie ghosted us. All of us. Her coaches and her teammates both. She just didn’t show up, didn’t register for the final session of the year, and once again, had NO communication whatsoever. I was devastated. I had coached this girl for five years and was 100% emotionally invested in the relationship. I loved her. I loved watching her grow up. I was sick over her betrayal. We had to find a sub for her for the upcoming performance that was about three weeks away. We found a former team member who was able to come in and learn the stunts so the kids could perform. We had to entirely change the routine for the end-of-the-year performances, and we weren’t ever able to find another sub or make enough changes for one portion of the routine, so the rest of her stunt group (four kids) just didn’t get to perform that part of the routine. It was so sad for them, and immensely frustrated with Leslie who would just leave them like that without explanation to or thought of her teammates. She made a commitment to her team to finish the year, but following through on that commitment wasn’t her priority. There you have it—the thing I hate the most about coaching. Sorry if it was a bit of a downer. Perhaps I just needed the cathartic process of writing some of this down. The bottom line is I hate having my heart broken—who doesn’t? There are days where I get discouraged, but then I look around and see all the good that has come from my program, and I am proud. I don’t have to look far—most of my coaches came through EDE and I’m so blessed to have all of them in my life. They, and the many others that have gotten a little more confidence, a little more assertiveness, or a little more work ethic and stick-to-itiveness, make the heartaches worth it in the end. Which is why I will say it again—I love what I do!