Mark’s Cheer Journal – Part 4

Well, it has been a few months since I wrote a journal – it’s a crazy busy time of year for me, so I guess it’s time for me to check back in. Andre even told me that a few people had been searching the site for my journal, so I have felt guilty for keeping my “audience” hanging. All four of you.

Anyway, we are about a month away from UCA Regional Competitions here in the Mid South, and my teams are working hard to be ready. As a coach, I always try to leave a month to clean things up before a competition. I try to not make ANY changes to the routine the last 4 weeks before a competition, so that the team can thoroughly master the routine. Of course, that is what I TRY to do with each of my teams. The first competition of the year usually crunches the mastering time of my teams quite a bit. And as you will see, not all of our teams are ready to just “clean up” over the next month.

Let’s start with my most prepared team, Graves County. GCHS has been working very hard this year and they are actually on target for the schedule that I mentioned above. They are the only team with whom I work that has been doing their routine full out for over a month now, and they are way ahead of schedule from any of the other six years that I have worked with them. We normally don’t finish our routine until September or the first of October. However, our main competitors at UCA Nationals have forced us to work harder and be more prepared each new season. We finished our routine in July this year, and have been working on it ever since. We are constantly tweaking things and altering counts here and there, but the core of the routine has been set for some time now.

Now, we did water our routine down about a month ago. We were not hitting certain parts and we felt like the routine was too hard, so we watered things down. We have set very specific goals for the team’s progress and our execution for competitions this year. We have never hit our routine at UCA Regionals – we came really close last year, and we are determined to change that this year. We hope that by watering things down we will increase our chance of having a great performance at regionals. This fact has also motivated us to try to be further along with our routine at this point in the season. We are hoping that being more prepared for regionals will translate into a better performance but also better performances down the road. Most years, we have felt decently prepared before Regionals. But it seems like when we look back every season and say, “What were we thinking last year??!?!” So, we are constantly evolving our methods and our schedule. Every team is different, and a schedule for one team may not be possible for another, but I would definitely recommend one to evaluate their performance from previous years and apply what you have learned. And just because something works for one team doesn’t mean that it will work for every team or every season.

Despite being ahead of schedule, GCHS has still several challenges they have been dealing with. Three more people have quit the team since we last checked in and GCHS will probably only compete with 18 or 19 people on the mat at regionals. We have had a few new people show interest and start coming to practice. So, we have also had to make time each practice for those people to get some reps and not just have them sit there and watch the rest of the team do the routine. The goal is to add one or more of these people to the routine after regionals. If they stick with it, then we probably will.

Up until recently, Graves has been practicing in a building with no AC and the temperature has been in the 90’s. On really hot days we try to give the kids more breaks and focus more parts. The heat is not the best atmosphere but at least we can have a full floor and work on formations and spacing. If we stayed at the high school, we would have to fight for gym time with volleyball and often would have to practice in the upper deck of the gym where we can only put down 3 mats. So, as soon as the weather permits, we move to the local rec center where we can have a space. The weather definitely makes it challenging at times, but we tough it out in order to get ready.

My other teams have not been as prepared for as long as Graves, but both Reidland and Boyd County have their routines set for Regionals and now have several weeks to just run through things full out. It is important for the teams’ conditioning that they do their routine full out as much as possible each practice the final month before practice. Each of my teams tries to go full out around 3 times a practice. If they do really good sometimes we will only go twice and then work on cleaning up the separate parts.

I didn’t intend this to be all about Graves County, but it is easier for me to talk about their practices and schedule because I talk to their head coach almost daily about their progress. I have been in better communication with Reidland’s coaches this year, but I don’t get to spend the same amount of time talking about the team as I do with Jon from Graves. Like I have mentioned before, almost all of the Reidland boys play other sports and it has made progress slow so far this season. Reidland has rarely had everyone at practice and this makes it extremely tough to work on the routine. But, they should have their boys most of the time now, so hopefully we will see great strides from them this next month. Reidland is always behind Graves in the fall but they have the ability to pull things together quicker than Graves seems too. I have wondered if it’s because they have more girls with more years of experience and that explains for their knack of being able to get ready fast. They have a long way to go over the coming weeks, but I was really pleased with what I saw from them last week. The went full out for the first time and had far fewer mistakes than I would have predicted. So, that was very encouraging. They just need to get as many reps as possible until regionals to clean everything up.

I’m not going to have time to talk much about Boyd County this month. They have been working very hard on their stunt sequences to get the “meat and potatoes”of their routine ready for regionals. Slowed by an injury to one of their three flyers and other injuries, the girls have also been working hard on individual tumbling skills since it has been impossible to do the routine full out. They have been working on parts and will start putting it all together this week. Like Reidland, Boyd has individuals with more competition and overall cheer experience, and they don’t need as much time to get ready for regionals. Although, I would like to be further along than we are at this point! Injuries have just not let us do that.

UCA Regionals is less than 3 weeks away, and the 2011 NHSCC is only around 100 Days away. Until next month, it is best to…

Make the most of each practice!

Mark Coleman