Two weekends ago, I traveled with one of my closest friends to Orlando, Florida to be a spectator at the 2014 UCA College Cheer and Dance National Championship event. This quickly becoming one of my favorite weekends of the whole year and has proved to be a great way to kick off what I like to call the craziness of “nationals season.” We spend two days doing nothing but watching cheer and dance teams, analyzing routines, and picking the winners in each division. We are total cheer nerds and get excited when the winner we’ve chosen is named the national champion. I loved getting to see kids that I have coached in their respective college uniforms competing as college students. It is such neat thing to know that you have helped produce cheerleaders who can continue to cheer at the next level! To say that I would proud would not do the feelings I had justice! When we aren’t watching the college competitions we are talking about what needs to happen to improve our own teams’ routines. It is a weekend where we are totally consumed with cheer and I love every minute of it! We wake up on Monday and rush to the airport to take off and fly into Lexington. We drive straight from the airport to Somerset, I drop her off at her practice luggage and all and rush to practice my own kids. We know from this point the next 2 1/2 weeks will be all about our high school cheerleading teams! I know that I will devote every ounce of physical and emotional energy for that span of time into making sure that I give my kids greatest chance of doing their very best when they themselves head to Orlando to compete. Although the task sometimes seems overwhelming, the weekend spend in the world of cheer re-engergizes me, fires me up, and gives me whatever it is I need to push on through the next two weeks!
UCA Nationals 2014
One of my former Warrior Cheerleaders, Kim, winning her first National Championship with MSU!
After graduating last year, Sydney is now cheering at WKU!
Today I wake up and the countdown to the night that we leave is in single digits! NINE DAYS!! Nine more days to cram in as much practice, performances, and mental preparation before we load the bus and head to Disney. Even a year later, it is hard to believe what we accomplished last year. It amazes me still to this day, that somehow I stepped into this cheer world as a nobody and with the help of so many others built a program that brought home its own National Title. I am so proud of my kids, definitely the 12 that hit that perfect routine last year but not just them. I am so proud of all the others that came before them. That continued to push when there was no hope of being called out as first place. I am proud of the young women who gave everything they had in practice just to try to do better than we had before. The girls who bought into my dream of building a nationally competitive program even when it seemed totally impossible and slowly (sometimes it seemed painfully slow) and with many tears, trials, and heartaches worked to inch our program forward every year. I am so very grateful for these young women that I’ve been able to work with over the past 9 years.
I am also so thankful for my own coach, who although she only coached me for half of my senior year, totally changed the course of my life. She fueled my passion for this sport and then trusted me enough to hand over the program. In my first years of coaching I didn’t make any decisions without running them by her first and often times even 9 years later I still get her take on things before I make a final call. The amount of hours we have spent on the phone dreaming, planning, venting, and talking cheer would be an insane totally ridiculous amount if it could ever be calculated. She has believed in me and been instrumental in the fact that I get to live out my dream life each and every day. Somewhere along the way, she became one of my truest, closest friends and the friendship we have is so precious to me. What began as an attempt to coach a high school team at a very young age, has turned into creating not only an all-star team but building a studio where I get to teach cheer and dance every day. When people said there was no way to be in school full time at UK and coach a high school team in Somerset, she said, “you can make it work if that is what you WANT.” When we decided to add an all-star team to our crazy schedule she’s the one that said we can fit it in we WANT to. When we decided to make that two all-star teams she said, “if that’w what we WANT to do we will find a way to make it work.” When I decide to open a studio and work full time as a teacher people looked at me like I was totally insane!! But she still said, “you can make it work if that is what you WANT to do.” And when I decided to resign from my secure and safe tenured teaching position and people really began to think that the crazy cheer coach had lost her mind, she said, “You HAVE to do it!! You HAVE to take this opportunity and if you WANT it to work, I know you will find a way to make it happen!”
This is the Britani-Melanie OH MY GOSH WE DID IT HUG after winning Nationals in 2013
Maybe the two most instrumental people in all of this have been my parents. I don’t tell them enough but I am thankful every day that God gave me the two best parents in the whole wide world. I am the person I am today because my parents taught and encouraged me to DREAM BIG. To go after the things that other people thought were too hard or too crazy. To give 110% to whatever task was at hand. When I wanted to go to school full time at UK and coach SWHS at the same time, the only way that was possible was for my mom to interview as the coach. With her only cheer experience being she had been a cheer mom, she did just that. How scary to stand in front of a bunch of high school girls, knowing you have no clue how to instruct them on cheerleading! I think that every cheerleader that has come through our program would say that the lessons they learn from my mom are so much more valuable than motions, tumbling skills, and stunts. She is the HEARTBEAT of the Warrior Cheer Program. She does whatever it takes to bring each year’s team together and to motivate and encourage them to become their best. None of it, not one single success would have been possible without her. And my dad has got to be the BEST dad in the world. Most men would roll their eyes at the amount of dance and cheer events and competitions that my dad has sat through but he’s been doing it ever since I have. From the 5 hour dance recitals he sat through when I was little bitty to the 15 cheer nationals he’s attended he is always there. When the cheer program didn’t have the money we needed for new poms or new signs he made it happen. When I wanted to build a studio, he made it happen. When I wanted to quit my “real” job, he FREAKED out…. and then said DO IT! I am quite certain that I get my workaholic tendencies from him and in the career path I’ve chosen, those workaholic tendencies are crucial! I am truly blessed to be supported in every area of my life by my mom and dad.
To me these two pictures say it all… the work is worth it. Nothing is impossible if you are willing to put in the work. I don’t know what will happen in Disney next weekend. I don’t know how many times in a person’s life they get to witness their team hit a perfect routine in finals and be the last name called in the winner’s circle. I know that me and my kids are doing everything possible to put our best routine out on those mats again this year. And I believe that they will do just that!! Win or lose, we are continuing to build this great tradition that is Warrior Cheer and influence not only each other but a whole new generation of little ones that look up to them. And I know that after making it through four years of cheering for me… these ladies will be able to do absolutely whatever it is is they decide to pursue in life and be successful. And that is what this whole cheer thing is all about!