Mark’s Cheer Journal – Part 1

Hi, my name is Mark Coleman and I am a full time cheer coach and choreographer. I am the owner of Performance Spirit, LLC, and I travel around the country and even around the world – I have been to Finland twice! – to do camps and clinics with cheer squads of all ages and skill levels. Most of these camps involve me choreographing routines for teams that will be competing at KAPOS – Kentucky’s state cheerleading organization – or at the NHSCC in Orlando, FL. Because I am a former college cheerleader at Vanderbilt University and the University of Kentucky and a former UCA Head Instructor, I have a strong background in the “traditional” or “more collegiate” style of cheerleading. You could also argue that this style is also the “UCA” style of cheerleading. In addition, I also spent 8 years coaching all star cheerleading – 3 years at Kentucky Elite and 5 years at Pep Club. From 2006-2007, I was a coach representative member of the USASF National Advisory Board. I have also been a National’s level competition judge for such companies as UCA and COA. So, I am not only well versed in the current all star cheerleading style but also the inner workings of the all star industry.

Since 1999, I have been using my combined experiences and knowledge to help teams compete at the highest levels of cheerleading. I have worked very hard to become an established cheerleading coach and choreographer and try to handle myself as a professional at all times. Although teams for which I have choreographed have won 35 State and National titles, I like to think of myself more as a coach than merely a choreographer. I take great pride in helping teams to “get to the next level.” And often the advice that I give to teams extends beyond just giving them a competitive routine or a new set of stunting techniques. I teach squads the winning ways that I have learned from some of the best cheer programs in the country and the strategies that I have implemented with my own teams.

The purpose of this monthly series will be to share my insights and to help document the progress of some of my teams as they prepare for the 2011 NHSCC. These teams will all be on unique paths competing in different divisions, each with their own unique challenges, but each team will be trying to get to the same destination – as 2011 NHSCC National Champions. We will be following the journeys of three teams from Kentucky – Graves County High School (large coed), Reidland High School (small coed), and Boyd County High School (small varsity), so let’s get started!

All three of these teams had try-outs last month, and are just now starting summer practices. Most of my teams practice once or twice a week during the summer with another practice for tumbling. The coed kids from Graves County will often get together once or twice extra a week to work on stunts. The kids from Reidland and Graves County often attend open gyms a few times a month to work on tumbling and stunting. In addition to being an extra time to practice, I appreciate this time that they spend on the weekends together because it is extra team bonding and also keeps them from getting into other “things.”

At try-outs each year, the coaching staffs of each of these teams set goals. This year, all three of my teams have set the same goal – to win the 2011 NHSCC. For Graves County, this is a yearly goal since we won our first title in 2006. The team members know the expectations before they join the team, and often they join the team because they want the opportunity to be a National Champion.

For Reidland who normally competes against Sparkman High School – a UCA Dynasty in small coed, the goal is normally to get as good as we can and try to make Sparkman sweat. However, UCA recently announced that they will split the small coed division based on school size. Reidland is a very small school and Sparkman is a large school. So, Reidland and Sparkman will no longer be competing in the same division. Accordingly, Reidland’s goals for this season have changed. With Sparkman no longer in the way, we have explained to the kids that they may have a much more legitimate chance to win this year. Of course, the kids will have to make the commitment and put in the work. Especially in tumbling, Reidland has lots of work to do. We will see how much progress they make this summer.

Boyd County High School has also expressed to me their desire to win nationals next year. I mention that it is their desire because I believe that it doesn’t matter what “I want,” but what they are willing to work to achieve. Boyd County placed second last year in Small Varsity Division II after a very trying and tumultuous year. In December of last year, the head coach almost threw in the towel (she ultimately resigned at the end of the season). It was somewhat of a miracle that Boyd even made it to Orlando. But they did, and they got second. This year, the girls have a new coach, are determined to have less drama, and want to go back to Nationals and move up one more spot.

Next month, I will continue explaining the summer regiments of Graves, Reidland, and Boyd and I will update you on their progress through June. This month, all three teams will have routine camps to start working on the routines that they will showcase next fall at regional competitions and which are the beginning permutations of what they will compete with at nationals in 246 days. Until then…

Make the most of each practice!

Mark Coleman