Cheer nationals 2016 have wrapped up in Orlando Florida. I was there only for parts of the competition on Saturday (specifically for one of the teams that lets me work with them). It was fun seeing what other schools are doing and reconnect with some old friends that I haven’t seen for quite some time. Plus, it is at Disney world so going to the parks and getting a reprieve from winter in Kentucky is always worth it. The reason we were there was for the competition. We rode 14 hours on a bus just for our teams to throw a two and a half minute routine (twice for the all-girl). Of course after the competition there are people who go home with trophies, medals, or participation ribbons.
Notice how I didn’t say winners and losers.
One of my favorite quotes (an excerpt from his Citizenship in a Republic speech) is by Theodore Roosevelt and goes as follows: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. “
It currently hangs in my office to remind myself what is important in life. Eventually we are all going to lose. None of us are getting out of this life alive. So, with knowing that at the end of the game you lose, you might as well compete as much as you can. Anyone that puts in the work and “spends themselves for a worthy cause” is never a loser in my mind. All my athletes that I’ve seen the blood, sweat, and tears from, are all winners in my mind regardless of what place they took at nationals. I have the same thoughts for all of the other teams down there and any person that competes in general.
Physical competition requires you to put your body on the line. It is a visceral experience in the arena, injuries happen and trauma can occur. It is not the same as academia or the working world. If you forget to put the labels on your TPS report you aren’t going to take an elbow to the nose or rip a tendon off a bone. I enjoy this factor of accountability that comes from competing. So I give my respect for anyone brave enough to step out on the field, mat, court, platform, etc.
With that all being said now that the competition is over, here is what I do after competitions in no particular order:
Audit the performance
After you compete take 24 hours or more to just relax and not think about the sport (especially when it is the final or only competition of your year). Then without adding in positive or negative emotion write down your thoughts on your performance. Point out what you did well and what you could have done better. Then work your way back to the days before the competition, the weeks before, and the months before (if necessary).
Try and break down what you could have done better not just with your training, but with your nutrition and rest. The nice thing with single variable sports like weight lifting, track, and throwing is you can really narrow down what you did right and wrong, however, ball sports have a lot more chaos to them and sometimes the competition day is just not your day. Doing this after each of your competitions will eventually let you see the trends and relationships of what you need to do to perform at your best. Also writing this information out if you are someone that is leaving their sport you can pass this information on to the next generation of kids for what they can do to be their best.
Take the time to sit down and really go through what you did and how you can do it better in the future. These notes can be useful and in general if you do this with your training program with time you can find what works the best for you training, nutrition, and recovery wise.
Keep your momentum
Now that you are done with lots of practices take a week to only do the types of training you want to do. You aren’t having two-a-day practices so by taking it easy for a week (two at most) should help a lot of your injuries to recover. If you are truly busted up now is the time to take your rehab seriously.
Once you are back to good it is time to start training again. Take and look at what your weaknesses are or what you have simply not been doing for the past month or two and put this at the forefront for a bit. For the kids that just got done doing cheerleading nationals you have been working hard for two and a half minutes of a variety of power and strength movements so doing a block of long distance aerobic work can be what the doctor ordered. Maybe you quit doing any type of weight training during this time so adding this back in at this point will help your performance.
Right after a major competition your body should be at a peak for performance. It is ok to slide down from that height (and a natural and healthy thing sometimes), but don’t end up back in a valley. Take a bit of time for yourself but get back out there and especially get your body balanced so that everything is working well.
Find a new dragon
If this was your last competition as a collegiate athlete the sport for you could now be all over. Some people are ecstatic about this fact and have been ready to retire for quite some time. Others might be sad to see it over with. I was a bit sad when being a college “athlete” was over for me, but I was transitioning to other sports at that time. Depending on how much you identify yourself as being an athlete in your sport this can be more or less difficult. This is where I suggest finding new dragons to slay.
My advisor at Kansas, Dr. Fry was a competitive Olympic lifter, power lifter, and bodybuilder told me that his key was to “change his arena”. So go out and find that new sport or hobby to participate in. This is why things like crossfit gain such a following since it creates a “tribe” of people that all share in the same experience of hard work and struggling. So take some time and find something new to compete in if it is time to throw in the towel.
Remember no one cares
Well that is actually a bit harsh, but it is always strange after you go through an incredibly intense (for you) cycle of training and a large competition and then Monday you are back in the office or in class with most of the people around you having no idea of what you did. Athletes in major sports that garner a large amount of media attention get the social recognition for what they do (which has its own pros and cons), but if you compete in cheerleading or otherwise most people know nothing about your sport much less what you did. This can be a bit rough just due to the speed of the transition, I’m a fan of talking with friends that have the same shared experiences or spending some time by yourself. Just keep in mind it means more to you than nearly everyone you meet, and that’s ok. Just smile with the memory of the fact that you did something worth remembering.
Now that the competition is over and it is time to get back to the daily grind keep these ideas in mind to help get the most out of the hard work you have put in. Watching your performance on video is nice, but writing down all the factors about it and taking advantage of how good your physical condition is something you should do. Either way at the end of the day congrats to anyone that gets out there and throws down.
Side bar: I wanna be the guy
So I went to the pool for a few moments and ran in to the university of Cincinnati cheerleaders and chatted with them for a few. One of my friends from cheering at Kansas (the “Legend”) was kind enough to share some of my articles and when I talked with them about our mutual friend one of them said: “I think this is the guy”.
This has to be one of the best compliments I’ve had recently, that some people actually read this (other than my mom (thanks mom for reading this)). I hope people get something out of this and thanks again for the conversation Cincinnati guys and congrats on your 6th place finish. They were super nice guys that seemed ready for the competition and pretty much all of them were doing engineering which impressed me.