Tuesday, November 6, 2018

An Open Letter to Middle School Cheerleading Coaches

 With maybe a small edit or two, this is a copy of the email I sent to the cheer coaches for the  Mill Creek Middle School Wildcats, in Woodstock, GA (Cultural Center of the Universe). 
My 12 year-old 7th grade daughter, Alicia Ann, is a cheerleader.

Last night, while I was proud of MANY things in the performance of the cheerleaders at the game, there were two items that turned ME into a cheerleader for your program.

1. The first person I saw when I stepped into the gym last night was a young lady with Down's Syndrome in her cheerleader regalia.  That was good enough for me, right there. I don't know this young lady's name, and I have no idea about her 'cheerleader' skill set (as the parent of a cheerleader, I don't even know what that skill set might be) but I do know this: her life will always include a memory of her role as a cheerleader for the Mill Creek Wildcats. And every cheerleader on that squad will be changed, by having her incorporated by the group.

2. I very QUICKLY noticed that during slack times, the cheerleaders did NOT lollygag around, giggling and whispering to each other. Instead, they stood in a posture I learned to call 'parade rest' in the Army. Two ranks of young ladies, feet shoulder-width apart, arms bent, hands behind their backs; they stood respectfully and watched the game.
I thought their routines were performed with enthusiasm and skill, but NOTHING expressed to me their discipline more than watching them hold their position minute after minute. I realized I wanted to get a picture of this, but alas; I was too slow. They had already started to move into their next routine by the time I could get my phone to take a picture:
Just breaking into the next routine...

As I told Alicia Ann on the way home, the cheerleader-specific skills that she is learning may not matter at all in 10 years. However, the quality of her character, which is being formed by her coaches (among others), WILL matter. You are giving her a great appreciation for accepting people on the basis of who they are, and not for what they can't do; you are instilling in her an appreciation for disciplined behavior that she will never forget, and will always profit by having.

So, after 35 years as a football-baseball-basketball-ballet-scouting-soccer-karate-retired parent, at age 65 I am finally part of #cheerparentlife.  It doesn't hurt as badly as I thought it might. (I must see if I still have the seat-pad for hard bleachers I carried in my truck, though.)

Thanks for giving my Alicia Ann and her team-mates a better perspective on what matters most.

Papa Pat Patterson

And that's it. I sent this to them this morning, in the tiny interval between putting the pot roast into the crock pot, and going out to vote. And suddenly, it's almost 4:00, and I don't know if I am going to have time to bake the bread I promised. I'll give it a try.

Peace be on your household.


  1. You get it. :)

    When Black Tide Rising came out, a few people called my choice of writing about a cheer team into question.

    I responded by telling a story. When my oldest was about 7, I had the opportunity to be an assistant coach for her rec cheer team. During that experience, I watched as athletes as young as 6 years old learn the cardinal rule of cheer stunts: the flyer (athlete at the top of the stunt) NEVER hits the ground. No matter what. I saw these children sacrifice their own bruised faces, abraded arms, and bumped heads to ensure that they followed the cardinal rule.

    That, my friends, is teamwork. And team integrity. And having your friends backs.

    Lessons like that are invaluable. And that's why I'm a #CheerMom

    1. I'm gonna have to go back and read my review of your story, but my recollection is that I loved it, particularly the self-sacrifice demonstrated. Memory has it that when one of the cheerleaders thought she might be infected, she asked to donate her CNS tissue to be used as the antidote.
      AND, I just went back and read my Amazon review, AND my blog post, and, indeed, I pre-validated myself by liking the story A LOT, even before I became a #cheerPapa.
      Go Wildcats!