Help! I'm A Cheer Parent!

By: Debbie Love (Coach at Gymtyme AllStars, Louisville, Ky) 

Cheerleader Parent Handbook

"Have you ever thought to yourself “Help! I’m a Cheer Parent!”? I am sure every parent of a child in cheerleading has thought these words. To find the best solutions, we probably should run as quickly as possible to a psychologist. In any sport, athletes deal with many psychological issues. All we want as parents, is for our child to be the best in the gym. That is a very natural desire, and it is okay for us to feel this way. It is only when we try to take over our child’s sport for ourselves that we are in the wrong. I know because I have been there.

Let me give you an example. I have six children, all of whom have cheered and competed in gymnastics. When one of my children, Christi, was six, she had a mental block on her round-off back handspring. It was the day before our family vacation. Well, I just went crazy. I thought, “Oh my gosh, she’s never going to tumble again!” And so I did what every parent does or wants to do for her child—I helped her. I made her do ten standing back handsprings and ten round-off back handsprings every day, on any surface, the entire vacation. She cried, but I still stuck to my plan. I told myself that I was making sure I helped her, just like a good mother should. I had it all wrong. Christi needed to relax, and build confidence. Repetitions (at a higher level of stress) wasn’t helping at all. She was only six years old. She eventually got her back handspring back, but I will never forgive myself for being so psychotic at the time.

Children always realize they are in competition with other athletes. We do not have to constantly remind them of this and compare them to the other children they are competing against. I feel that many of us live vicariously through our children. I know I have. I did not have the opportunities that my children have and I want them to compare favorably to everyone else. I am sure others feel the same way. But, that is a foolish thing for a parent to do. Remember, we are supposed to love and accept our children with no strings attached. This means that they do not have to be as good in the gym as we think they should be in order to gain our love and acceptance.

We all want our children to be in the front so that everyone can see them. I can remember getting so angry because one of my children was behind someone else and I could not see her.

Parents, this sport is not about us. It is about teaching children the nine core values of athletics. No one is in front all of the time or is the best at everything. Even if someone was, cheer does not revolve around your child—be a team player. Your desire should be to want to see improvements in every athlete and, therefore, a better performance by your team.

I can remember a time that my youngest, who was ten at the time, cried because she wanted to base instead of fly. Another time, ,however, she told her coach to take her down so that another little girl could fly. It was really sweet and I was so proud of her because it showed that she cared more about others than about herself (a good character quality for a team athlete to possess).

I believe that the best thing we can do for our children is to let them lead in what they want and to own their own skills. If they do not love what they are doing, their experience will not be valuable to them as humans. I love every minute of my job, and the athlete’s job is his or her sport. My parents were not very involved in my cheerleading. It was me who wanted it, not my parents. I would practice it any time I had the opportunity because it was my love, my passion, and it still is to this day."

For more information on Debbie, visit her website!
Make sure to show her some "love!"