Winning Airbac Essay
The winning essay for our Airbac Bling Backpack and Shoe Bag giveaway.
Winner: Samantha Klipper
What is the Most Important Life Lesson cheerleading has taught you?
As a parent of a cheerleader and as the former director of a youth cheer program, I have had the distinct pleasure of learning both sides of the life of cheer. Cheerleading has taught me many things over the last few years, one of which is that it’s much more than a sport, but more importantly, how it becomes family. Some may say that a youth cheer program is different than an all-star program, indeed it is in a variety of ways, but I believe that the concept of family is the foundation of why my daughter’s team is successful.
My daughter has cheered for her youth team since 2nd grade, she’s about to enter 6th. Being part of this team has given her the strength, the knowledge and the confidence to succeed, not just on the mat or the field, but in other aspects of her life. As a parent, I firmly believe that the foundation and existence of that sense of family falls solely on their coach(es). A team is only as strong as its weakest link some might say and I’m not entirely disagreeing, but from that weak link should be a coach willing to take the time and build up the cheerleader, so she too becomes a strength. Cheerleading for my daughter and myself has taught us that family can be extended to the mat/field, and it starts with the dedicated, compassionate, caring and beyond all else, generous time each coach gives to their teams. Kids are impressionable and they will follow the lead of the role model in charge of directing them. The coach sets the tone and when your daughter has the kind of role models my daughter does, things in cheerleading become a whole lot more than just stunting and tumbling.
Having been the director of the youth program for two years, I was able to see a variety of coaching styles. I can say, honestly, that my daughter’s two coaches have made the most positive impact on the lives of their team. They took their team to Nationals as a 3rd grade team of 13, coached them as 4th graders and a team of 18, then pulled out two first place finishes and a grand championship with a shrunken team of 13 this past year as 5th graders. This team struggled with the loss of so many girls who left youth cheer for all star cheer and other sports or dance. Despite this challenge, these coaches never wavered from their message of success and teamwork. It just made the girls work a little harder. For years, their coaches created an environment where each of those girls felt important and valued and pushed them to believe they could accomplish what they set out to do. All of this was instilled in them, all while they watched one of their coach’s struggle with brain cancer. They saw her presence at every practice, even after treatments made her visibly weak and quiet. They saw the strength in her eyes and they knew that if she was there, sick and all, they had something to work for. At no time was her sickness ever discussed with the girls or used as tool to motivate. All they needed to do was see her dedication and commitment and they were all in. This isn’t something that I believe every coach is capable of…creating a team of sisters. Their coaches have created a place where they truly feed off each others energy, struggles and accomplishments and support each other. This team has been a place where these girls find comfort and community in one place. That lesson has been taught to them and us, as parents, through cheerleading and their coaches. I would like to point out, that unlike all star cheer, these coaches volunteer their time to these girls, which I think also teaches my daughter the lesson about how giving back to their community can make a difference.
Having been able to see both sides of this cheer community, I can honestly say that cheerleading has extended my home family to the mat and field all because of the immeasurable dedication of coaches who selflessly teach these girls all year long how to be good role models and inspiring leaders for the future.
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