Notice a slump with your team? We here at Cheer and Pom see it all the time. They are all so excited at the beginning of the season with the idea of new routines and competitions on the horizon and then, before you know it, their motivation begins to wane. It's important to remember that while they are amazing athletes trying to be the best, they also have school, family, friends, and part-time jobs. It's easy for them to become overwhelmed at times with all of the responsibilities they have taken on.
As a coach, it is your job to pick up on the fact that their motivation to be the best of the best is fading. Are they chattier? Showing up late to practice and games? Bickering with one another? Showing overall laziness throughout practice? These are all very clear indicators that their drive is lacking. So how do you pump them up again, you ask? Well we're here to help--perfect timing, right?
Here are 8 ways to get your team back on track before the dreaded burnout happens.
1. Create a Positive Environment
You want them to want to come to practice, that is a given. This is easily over looked because it is really is such a no brainer. But if you neglect making it a place they want to be, then you're going to have a real problem on your hands. So start right away, by making practice and games a comfortable and welcoming place to be for all members. Eliminate all negativity, pettiness, gossip, and disrespectful language. None of it should ever be tolerated. It can bring down even the most talented of squads.
2. Don't be a drill sergeant.
Easier said than done, right? We know you mean business during practice, as you should. But it's easy to slip into the pattern of drilling them continuously to get the routines perfect. It is extremely important to make sure that your tough coach demeanor comes from a place of positivity. You never want your squad to walk away from practice feeling defeated. Make sure you are giving praise for the things they are getting right and being constructive about things they are doing wrong. Sometimes it helps to pair a negative comment with a positive one. It's as simple as changing "That transition is wrong, do it again" to "You have to make sure you're hitting that move to make sure that you are transitioning from your stunt a little quicker". Be sure to remember that the best coaches are also teachers for their squad. Teach them how to be better; don't dictate how to be better.
3. Talk it Out!
It's an easy routine to fall into--Come to practice, stretch, warm up, and then immediately dive into fixing things. Sometimes that monotony of practice alone can really start to have a negative impact on your team's energy. So once you start noticing them falling victim to low motivation, don't keep doing what you've been doing, and definitely don't start riding them harder. That won't change anything. Sit down and talk to them. Take 10-15 min at the beginning or the end of practice to sit on the mat with them and chat about their energy levels. How are they feeling about how the season is going? What do they want to work on? Why aren't they feeling motivated? Brainstorming with them is a great way for them to feel a little more in control. Because at the end of the day, they are going to know their moods and feelings a whole lot better than you do.
4. Pump up the Energy.
The second they step foot in that gym you can sense the drain. They're tired and they just want to go home. You can see it a mile away, right? Well start the practice with fun adrenaline pumping music, especially if it is one of their favorite songs of the moment. It's a quick and easy pick me up for them that will last the entire practice. Music is the magic energy booster.
5. Create Friendly Competition.
What's more motivating than giving them the opportunity to have bragging rights? (In a positive way, of course!) Creating a time where they can compete against each other will help to drive them. Break them in half and have one half perform the routine in front of the half. Give an incentive to whoever can do it best. This not only gives them the opportunity to watch the other half of the squad performing and see what they do well, but it also gives them a chance to show the others what they've got. You can offer an incentive to just pick the music for the next practice or to sit out for an extra 10 minutes at the end of practice. Whatever it is that you choose to reward them with, the feeling they'll get from working hard to win will go a long way to get them excited again.
6. Have them work together.
Part of the reason your squad may have low energy is that they're not working together. This is a common issue. You and your squad spends a lot of long hours together, often times it can go from working together as a team to just working to get out of there. Have them work in pairs or small groups of 3 or 4 and have them clinic each other. By doing this they will have the opportunity to work on small parts of the routine that they could be struggling with and to bring back the team element. Peer critiques are a great way to build team trust back. The criticism they give to each other will be coming from a place of positivity instead of tearing each other down. And of course, don't have them paired with their best friends. That just is a recipe for disaster, nothing will get done. Pair them on strengths and weaknesses. It would obviously be counterproductive to have two people work on facials together when they both need to be better at it. If facials are something that needs work, pair the girls who are great at it with the ones who need a few pointers.
7. Change the environment.
They see the same four walls, day in day out. It gets old and boring for both you and your squad to be there. So mix it up, if it's nice outside practice outdoors, see if a local dance studio will let you practice for a day, even practicing in a different gym than they're used to will help to switch it up a little bit and give them a tad more energy. Talk about a quick and easy fix, right?
8. Cheerleader of the week.
Every practice, there is always one person who seems to be working a little harder than the rest, isn't there? It happens all the time. That person should be rewarded in some way for all of their hard work, shouldn't they? If they don't, what's the incentive for working harder than everyone? Select a cheerleader of the week to work with the cheer captain on leading stretches, energizing the team, communicating announcements, etc. That way they are being recognized by you and the other teammates have something to work towards. Playing favorites though, is always discouraging to others. How do you avoid playing favorites? Have this person be selected by the squad, not you. It's super simple. At the end of the week poll the team. Who do you think worked the hardest all week? The first couple names to be shouted out will be voted on, that way they know that they are not only being recognized by you, but also their peers. Huge confidence builder!
At the end of the day your main goal is to help them be the best they can be. Cheerleading is hard work and often times they just need to be reminded of why they love this sport. You don’t want to see your team fail because they lose the motivation. Whichever ideas you choose to use to motivate them, stick with them.
Do you have any good tips or ideas that you use to keep your squad inspired? Share them with us, we’d love to hear from you!