Navigating Victory Beyond a Trophy

Last week, my team won the State Championship for the third time in a row.  For me as a coach, that is three in a row at my school, five in a row as a coach, and seven total as a coach. It is overwhelming to think about, but in my victories, I always remember what I learned in my losses. This is my 30th season as a coach, so if you do the math, I have walked away without a State trophy than with one.  

Throughout the years, I’ve coached teams where mere tenths of a point stood between triumph and defeat. In the earlier days, stepping off the mat or losing a hair bow could cost a team FIVE points. Yes, five entire points and yes, both happened to my teams. These moments, though challenging, are the rules we sign up for as coaches.

Part of my coaching philosophy is preparing my teams for the unexpected and instilling in them the understanding that giving their best may not always result in victory. Having encountered every conceivable scenario, this season brought several new surprises, reminding us that while certain situations were unexpected, the unpredictability of the sport was not.

The night before each State competition, I have my team write notes to themselves that I give them back after prelims. I encourage them to reflect on what they've gained, even if they walk away without a trophy. Emphasizing that competing on a cheer team is about much more than hardware, it's crucial to instill this philosophy from the outset. The identity of the team and their own personal identities should not solely hinge on winning a State Championship, as the significance of the journey far surpasses the tangible rewards.

Here are three values that coaches can embrace to foster victory, irrespective of placement:

Know your Value and Worth as a Coach

Beyond the wins and losses, a coach's value and worth should extend into the deeper purpose of coaching. Reflecting on why one coaches can profoundly impact coaching style and team dynamics. While winning is a natural desire, understanding the underlying motivation can shape a coach's approach. Think about who you are if you are not a coach. If you don’t know who you are without being a coach, learn more about yourself so you can answer this question. 

Build a Team to Be Their Best ON the Mat

Prioritize setting achievable goals for the team and celebrating victories, even if they don't involve advanced skills. Acknowledge and take pride in progress, whether it's mastering basic techniques or more complex skills. Realistic expectations foster a positive atmosphere, preventing disappointment among team members or the feeling that the team is letting the coach down.

Build a Team to Be Their Best OFF the Mat

Investing in the character development of the team is as vital as honing their skills. Don't shy away from addressing poor character and behavior. Sometimes, pausing skill progression to focus on interpersonal dynamics can contribute more to the team's success in the long run.

Coaches can embrace various values, so take the time to identify and reflect on yours. Regular self-reflection ensures a focus on what truly matters, beyond the allure of trophies and titles.


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