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Posted on 01 January 2017

Stanwood, Washington... Our small town is the perfect place for big dreams to flourish. One of those big dreams for young girls is being a cheerleader. Wearing cute skirts and performing for a crowd? Sign me up! But wait, what about the "mean girl" attitude that "all cheerleaders" are assumed to have? Who would want to join a team of girls who act inappropriately and wear short skirts? But no, Stanwood Cheer doesn't fit into that stigma - sorry! My name is Laine Daly and I am proud to be the coach of a high school cheer squad in a town built upon core values, unity, and family. We incorporate our squad into the community daily through hosting "Little Cheer" clinics for the children, promoting community support in all aspects of school and athletics, and being the face of what a squad should be. This high standard doesn't come easy though. Being a cheerleader doesn't automatically give you the same immediate respect as playing football, soccer or basketball. But that's where my squad at SHS flips this misunderstanding. My squad is full of ATHLETES - I have that capitalized because it's incredibly important. I know your first thought is probably not "athlete" when you think of high school cheerleading. You might think of a squad of girls yelling and jumping around, looking like fools to some. But to the girls on my squad, it means hitting the gym daily at 5:30 AM with an intense workout, whether that means running in rain or shine, or pushing through High Intensity Interval Training. We follow that with kicks, jumps, cheers and stunting.

This was my first year as a cheer coach, and I knew I had to make a change to our current cheer squad, their reputation, and their attitude. I started this by implementing a complete 180 of their program. At first, the thought of early morning practices was ridiculous to them, insane to others, and adding in additional workouts to the mix, I was surprised to have any girls try out! Before taking on this coaching position, I had heard that SHS Cheer was a joke, something for people to laugh at and that I would be lucky to get girls to try out. The school officials were stunned with my new rigid workout routines and strict academic guidelines. I expect my girls to always ALWAYS put school first. Being an athlete is a privilege.

Once tryouts were in full swing, I realized how much these young girls need a coach who can teach them, will fight for them, and most of all someone who believes in them. Going into this coaching job, I knew the stigmas around cheer. I had seen this first hand growing up as a cheerleader and watching my two older sisters go through the same thing. I was bound and determined to unite our town and legitimize cheerleading as an athletic sport, because we refuse to be grouped into society's misunderstood category of cheer.

From the start of picking my squad, all I heard was how the "other coach" did or said things or wanted things done. I could have easily been discouraged, but I knew right then that my attitude as a coach would have a huge impact on their attitude as a squad. This was now up to me, I could choose to lead or I could choose to run from the challenge. I assume you can see what choice I ultimately made. In the first week of practice, the girls began to realize their individual and team potential. Week by week, these girls are able to grow as individuals and as a squad, which is the most rewarding part of my job. Not only are these girls getting physically stronger, they are maturing mentally and emotionally as they return everyday for practice.

For anyone in the coaching world, or contemplating a coaching career, I suggest thinking about what and who you wanted as a coach when you played sports or were involved in team activities. Be that person. Be the coach you dreamed of having or the one you had that forever changed you for the better, and then aim to be EVEN BETTER than that. When you get frustrated with your team, remember that each individual is fighting their own fight. Respect each person and allow your team to be unique so their team personality can shine through. 

...As Mark Cuban said, "Work like there is someone working 24 hours-a-day to take it all away from you."

Coach Daly

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