Monthly Archives: October 2012

Kick It Into High Gear With A KICKOFF!

Here in the Northeast the 12-13 season is starting to get exciting!! Since most All-Star teams in this region don’t compete until December, social media is just starting to buzz with new uniform pics, music from various teams & video clips of routine sections. While all this stuff is exciting externally, now is when practices are getting monotonous. Practicing all summer and into the fall without the excitement of a competition can cause coaches and athletes to lose that drive to “do one more”. Many gyms have figured out the solution.

I have seen a growing trend in recent years; more and more programs are doing a season kickoff event earlier in the fall. These kick off events can be as simple or elaborate as you want; from bringing parents into the gym to watch full out routines in uniform, to elaborate festivals in rented facilities that charge admission. The timing of these events is crucial. It gives your athletes and program a goal so they will be ready to perform and be able to hit skills without having to be ranked against other teams.  Athletes are more motivated to come to practices early in the season because the first performance doesn’t seem so far away. Coaches have the chance to see who will step up, and what they may need to tweak before the first competition.

If you don’t already do some sort of season kickoff performance, I highly recommend it. A lot of athletes choose All-Star cheer over other sports because they love the opportunity to perform. A kickoff is a way to strategically prepare your gym for the season, as well as add value to your program’s “product” by giving the athletes more of what they want!

Brandi Sims- Northeast JAMcare Rep

It’s The Quality, Not The Quantity

Having danced, judged, coached, choreographed over the past couple of decades (dang I’m getting old), I have experience in dance from all four point-of-views. I often get asked “What exactly makes a winning POM routine?” or “What are judges looking for these days?”  With that in mind, I wanted to provide some insight on the topic.

Some consistent comments I hear across the Country and Internationals are: “My team performed triple pirouettes, the other team didn’t but yet they scored higher.” or “My team had two turn sections and a leg hold turn, and the other team didn’t.” My answer is almost always “It’s the quality and execution of the routine that counts the most, not the quantity of skills.”

Ask yourself, these questions: Did your team hit the proper pom motions with locked tight arms, proper body lines, and sharp movement while executing these skills? Did they have pointed feet and proper turn out? Were their knees locked? Was their timing in synch? Did the technical skills add to the overall visual effect of the pom routine?

Judges would much rather see a clean hard hitting pom routine that had one turn section, then a sloppy pom routine that has three different turn sections, arms everywhere, leg hold turns galore, etc. Technique is always appreciated, but our pom score sheets reflect how your pom motions and visuals were throughout the routine.  A routine with beautiful technique, pom placement and timing can contribute to the overall effect and difficulty of a routine; but it is a POM score sheet.  Meaning, you will not see a section on the score sheet that rewards quantity of skills in a routine, however skills perfectly performed will likely increase your overall effect scores.

Imagine your poms are glow sticks; every single movement is being highlighted and is creating a visual both good and sometimes bad.  Pom is not a jazz routine called POM because you happen to be holding poms. This is a dance competition so of course any proper technique is going to be appreciated and impressive, but let’s not forget what category and style we are competing in. There is no in between with pom motions. It’s a high V, low V, T, etc, if you were to take a picture at any point during a pom routine, each motion is a hard hitting pose.  Even just a simple kick….if your leg was well over your head, where were your arms?

There are plenty of ways to incorporate technique in a pom routine, but it should contribute to the overall pom effect. For example, if your team is executing a proper a la second section but their arms are a crazy mess; on a POM score sheet the pom execution, technique and overall effect scores will be reflected.  If the turn timing is off or prep and landings are off, the pom motions will obviously be off as well.  If your team is hitting a great turn section with sharp pom motions and timing, your scores would go up, but there is much more to the routine then this.  Pom is a very athletic, aggressive and energetic style of dance.  Athletic doesn’t only mean tricks, it is the tempo, cleanliness, the number of transitions, the attack and dance aspects of the performance are the meat of the score sheet.

A super cheap and easy practice drill to help improve the sharpness of motions is to get two empty water bottles and fill them with dirt and have your dancers do the routine full out holding them as if they were poms. This will improve their arm and motion strength while dancing.  I know it sounds crazy but I promise you it works!

Of all the styles of dance out there in the world, I have to say Pom is one of my very favorites to watch and choreograph.  To me, every single transition, formation and motion is like a painting.  I’m always seeing new and artistic choreography at competitions within the US and worldwide.  The creativity that coaches and choreographers are bringing to the table always fascinates me.  Even the colors and costuming I’ve seen in both high school and all star. I truly look forward to seeing all the pom performances this season and wish you all the best of luck!

Hayley Schumaker-Reyes: National Dance Director/ West JAMcare Rep

A Look From The Other Side

“It’s been six months since we learned our routine. It was a struggle at first – we had so many absences at practice. The stunt sequence is a little shaky and sometimes inconsistent. I hope that it hits today! I know that 6 out of the 20 kids are not throwing their tumbling, but maybe, with all the choreography, it will hide the fact that they are not going. I really wish that we had taken time to clean up certain transitions. I know some people are rushed, but we just need to get them from one side of the floor to the other. There are some major spacing problems in the dance, but maybe the judges won’t notice, or maybe they will realize I did have two girls quite last week. We only have 2:30 seconds to show them what we’ve got!”

Every coach knows how incredibly difficult it can be to get a team ready for competition. All the athletes and coaches have certain jobs and responsibilities and it takes a team to pull off a win. However, let’s take a look at it from the other side – the side of the judges.

These judges are scoring multiple teams for consecutive hours during the course of one or two days. Their main job is to score teams based on the rubric provided, but also compare each team to other teams within that division and level. They have to watch stunts, pyramids, standing tumbling, running tumbling, jumps, tosses, dances, and the overall impact that each team leaves once they are finished. Guess what? On top of all of this they only have 2:30 to do it!

Every coach has had months to analyze the routines, their athletes, and every aspect of the routine. Coaches know what is inconsistent. They know what struggles from time to time. They know the strengths and the things they are trying to hide so the scores will fall where they think they should.

The judges do not have the luxury of knowing all of this. They are judging teams on what is being executed on the floor. They are also comparing this execution with teams that perform before and after. This can have a direct impact on the subjective scores.

Scenario:

The regional event that your team attended unfortunately did not have anyone else in their division. Therefore, your team’s subjective score was based solely on their own execution. Fast forward to a two day national event where there are 8 other teams in your division. The subjective scores can be different, because the judges now have to base their scores on teams that are demonstrating lesser, greater and comparable execution to your team.

What does all this mean?

Competitive cheerleading and dance is a sport that has grown leaps in bounds since it began 30 years ago. There have been great strides to create consistent skill levels and ways to score these skills between teams. At the end of the day, this still is a judged sport. You are competing to be ranked based on rubrics, but also opinions and feedback. The best way to give yourself a competitive advantage is to educate yourself, educate your athletes, and most importantly educate your parents. After all, they are sometimes the least knowledgeable when it comes to the sport of cheerleading and how it is judged. Sometimes they are not familiar with how the whole process works. Take the time to help them understand the sport their child loves so much!

Check out this video to learn more about the basics of JAM Brands Scoring.

Jeremi Sanders- JAMscore Director

Focus on Fun: Be in it for the right reasons!

The number one focus to all of us in the all-star community should be to get more kids in the gyms and studios.  We need kids to want to be cheerleaders and dancers and not choose to play soccer or basketball.  It doesn’t matter where you are located or the number of gyms/studios in your city, we are in this together!  It’s simple, the more kids that are in our sport, the more that can come through your door.

If every gym would become more committed to growing the sport, be more open-minded and more accepting of healthy competition, we could move forward and get out of this “economic down era”. We are ALL ambassadors of our sport – let’s make sure that the hundreds of thousands to millions of kids in the U.S. and beyond see that and want to walk through your doors to become a cheerleader or dancer.

Kids should be the major reason you, as a gym/studio owner or coach, are in this sport.  And the education of these kids should be your main priority.  Parents want their child to be in a sport or activity that the child will enjoy but will also grow them as a person.  We all need to realize that we are doing more than teaching a liberty or a back-handspring.

Let’s make sure that 100% of time is dedicated to the development of the child.  All coaches should understand that they are teaching athletes about communication skills, goal setting, teamwork and many other long term life skills.

The success of the all-star community relies on much more than the skills being taught.  Running a successful business is first and foremost.  Early in the all-star movement, gyms focused on keeping the kids happy.  We realized this was an all-inclusive sport and we didn’t have to cut anyone.  The industry embraced this idea because it meant more kids in the doors of gyms across the country.  Gyms focused on embracing every level of athlete and ensured that they had a place at their gym.

The industry has become more competitive and now there is more competition within cities for athletes.  For example, in one city, Gym A now has to be better than Gyms B and C.  As a result, the level 2 youth athlete has been pushed way more than before.  This child just wanted to be on a team with her friends and enjoy the experience of being on a team.  Suddenly, she wasn’t good enough for the team so coaches kept pushing her to improve, now it’s not as fun, so she’s out.  We have lost an athlete.

We are in business to educate, develop and grow children through cheerleading and dance.  All owners and coaches should remember FUN first, education second and skills third.

Dan Kessler – Co-Owner, The JAM Brands

Don’t be cruel to the sport you love.

Over the last 10 years, I have watched our industry and sport evolve right before my eyes: skills, routines, uniforms, as well as the athletes.  If you would have told me 10 years ago that all star teams would be competing double ups or that high school teams would be throwing toe-touch standing fulls, I would have thought, “No way!”

Through all of the great changes, though, the one thing that I wish would come back in style is truly Imagesupporting each other on the mat.  I know, I know – there are plenty of teams who clap for the 1st place team or wish each other good luck when they pass in the hallways, but I miss the days of really, genuinely hoping that someone does well.  I remember participating in a competition and feeling the rush of excitement when I would see some of my friends on other teams nail their routine!  I truly wanted them to do well, as I knew the time and effort they had put into perfecting those skills.

As times have changed, so has how we share information.  Let’s be honest – since social media has become such a staple in our everyday lives, it is all too common to hop on Twitter and put a team or athlete down with snide remarks about not hitting a skill. It’s disappointing and disheartening to get on the popular industry message boards and see entire forums where athletes (and adults) are talking negatively about one another. Image

I just don’t understand how, in a sport that is so accepting of so many types of people, that teaches so many life lessons, we can be so cruel to each other.  Seriously!  Think about that for a second.  This time of your life will just be a small part of your life overall – it doesn’t last forever (trust me, I know!).  Don’t you want to look back on this time and remember what a positive experience this has been?  Well, good sportsmanship doesn’t just happen; you have to make it happen.

Don’t be cruel to the sport you love.  Don’t put down your fellow athletes in the sport that has accepted you as you are.  The month of October is Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, so I’d like to push Imageyou to take a stand against bullying.  I challenge you to try, just once, to lift someone up.  Encourage each other, celebrate each other, and genuinely be happy for each other.  This is an amazing sport that has impacted all of our lives in incredible ways.  Sooner than later, the extraordinary skills of today will become commonplace and what we will be left with are the memories we’ve made.  So don’t regret the choices you make and the actions you take part in because you got caught up in all of the hype. 

Instead, be the athlete who keeps the comment to themselves.  Use your skills and abilities to help motivate and inspire the next generation, not mock them.  Choose the high road and stand up for others.  Do it because you’re bigger than bullying.  Do it because it’s the right thing to do.  Better yet – do it because you mean it.

ImageHave a great season of positivity – this is going to be your best year yet!

 

Griffin Myers- Southeast JAMcare Rep

Rip Off The Band-Aid

 

 

ImageEvent season is always a fun time for me. In the past, I have been a high school coach, choreographer, all star coach, competitor, and now an event producer. No matter what role or capacity I was in, I always had the same thought when October came around, “We’re not ready!”

Just the other day, I was speaking with my great friend Cherokee Greendeer from Green Bay Elite about this very topic and how it affects your teams and program. She said something that really made sense to me: “Don’t be afraid of earliness.”

When I was coaching, it was very hard for me to put a routine on the floor early in the season knowing that my athletes weren’t 100% ready. Not only did I want them to win, but I didn’t want other programs to see us when we weren’t our best.

As luck would have it, one season we decided to try a low cost event in September. It goes without saying that I wanted to cry the week of competition – we weren’t ready, we didn’t have uniforms, we had only had music for a week, we might have had two practices with everyone in attendance… you get the idea. While, we didn’t walk away with first place in every division, we did walk away with a new sense of passion and energy. Image

Cherokee agrees, “After our first competition, we see more kids in the gym working skills because they finally remember what it feels like to compete. They get it. They say ‘oh yeah – that’s what it’s supposed to feel like!’ To us, it [competing early] is just to get everyone back into the swing of things.  By December when most gyms are still struggling to hit solid, we look how I want us to look for the rest of the season.”

Wouldn’t it be great if we could forget our egos, forget the fear of what other programs would think, make our parents realize that you don’t have to be perfect right away.  Wouldn’t you like to be able to go on the floor early to work the kinks out?

Realize that everyone is in the same situation you are in. No one is really “ready” for that first event, everyone is nervous, but not everyone takes that leap and puts their kids on the floor. We all know that our Imageathletes are stronger than we think sometimes – don’t hold them back! Just like Cherokee, our coaching staff saw the immediate benefits of competing early. 

Set your athletes, coaches, parents, and gym up for success. I would encourage you right now to take a look at what events you are going to this season. If you aren’t competing until November or December or even January, find an event ASAP! I promise you, after your first “early” event, you will see a passion and spark in your athletes!

Rip the band aid off, find the benefit of competing early, and don’t be scared of the “earliness” … embrace it and use it to have a successful season! 

 

Chad Lemon – Central US JAMcare Rep

Don’t get even. Get even better!

What if we were all better customers?  Remember that old adage “treat others as you want to be treated”?  I know my mother repeated these words daily to me.  As customers, we can provide reverse customer service.  Where we, the customers are kind, attentive, and grateful to the people serving us.  Greet them with a smile, say ‘thank you’, be understanding, compliment them on a job well done and, well, just be nice.  Simple as that.  You could be the only person that day that was nice to them.

I know, I know – when their title is customer service, it is their job to provide good service to me, but I want you to ask yourself – do we have to make it harder on them?  Things don’t always go as planned and yes, people do make mistakes, but if we treat people with respect, the outcome will always be better.

What if, on a daily basis, the majority of your customers (parents) were rude to you?   They constantly complain that their child isn’t getting enough attention from the coaches, or isn’t progressing to their standards, and who are just unpleasant to deal with.  What if after every competition that didn’t result in a first place, those same customers berated you? Would you want to continue to go to the gym day after day?

I remember one day while traveling my flight had been delayed, and delayed some more, then eventually cancelled due to severe weather.  While standing in line, I witnessed person after person get rude and hostile with this poor lady working behind the counter.  As I got further up in line, her demeanor got more and more beat down.  Twenty minutes earlier she was standing tall, smiling and making eye contact.

By the time I got to her, she was hunched over and staring like a deer in headlights just waiting for the next beating to arrive.   I smiled and said “I’m sure no one has told you yet today, but you are doing a great job!  It’s got to be hard being on that side of the counter where everything is out of your control and just about everything thing you try doesn’t seem to be enough.  Just wanted to let you know that what you do is appreciated.”  She looked at me like she was about to cry and said, “This is my first day back to work after my brother passed away.  It’s taking all I have just to be here right now and that was the first nice thing I’ve heard all day.”  She proceeded to rebook my flight, asking my preferences for aisle or window.  She handed me the new boarding ticket and thanked me for the nice words.  It wasn’t until the next morning when boarding my new flight did I realize that I was upgraded to first class.

I didn’t say those words to her to get something out of it.  I said those words because she really was doing a great job in a lousy situation and she deserved to know that I noticed it.  I’ve been in her position before and I knew she needed to hear it.  Sometimes, we all get so wrapped up in our own agendas and in our own world that we forget to remember that people who work in customer service are not just a sounding board for our complaints, or a punching bag to take out our frustrations on, but instead are REAL people who genuinely want to help solve your problems.  The point here is that we all put our pants on the same way, we are all human, and we should do our best to treat one another humanly.  Stop and see the people who are working to provide you with great customer service and a wonderful experience, and recognize their effort.  You’ll be surprised at how good it will make you feel to put a smile on their face!  Do you like what I do?  Tell me!

As we near the competition season, let’s all vow to each other to follow the golden rule: Treat others as you would like to be treated.  There will be times when you won’t like the outcome of a situation in your gym or at an event when things don’t go as smooth as you expected.  Make a promise to yourself now to take control of your reactions when that happens because, trust me, it will happen.  Hold in the urge to yell or curse, and channel your frustration into something positive.  Be that bright spot in the day for all the people you encounter.  Be remembered for being understanding and gracious.  When you do stumble over a bump in the road, here’s a great quote that will stick with you, and one that you can share with the athletes too:  “Don’t get even.  Get even better.” 

-Tara Patton Harris (Vice President of Sales- The JAM Brands)