Monday, December 31, 2012

The Mist of a Boo

My phone rings, I answer to hear,  "Happy New Year Coach!" 
"Happy New Year!" I respond. 

I apologized for not recognizing her voice, explained unavailable showed on my phone screen, so I didn't even know where the call was coming from and I asked who it was. I heard her laugh, "It's been a long while, I am not sure if you will remember me but its Boom, your mist of a boo!"

It took me a second to make the connection, place a face with the nickname. because I had never technically coached her. The two of us laughed as we walked down memory lane, filling in each other's memory gaps.
She was this little bitty thing, cheering on a younger team. She would stay after her football game to watch my older kids cheer.  I dubbed her Boo because she always tried to sneak up behind me, make me jump.  She was one of the kids who constantly told me she couldn’t wait to get older, cheer on my team and be one of my girls.
I remember the many conversations between the cheerleading commissioner and myself. Her coach was frustrated with her team, especially the young girl I called Boo. She was too small to base and because she had been dropped to the ground the year before she was afraid to fly, she constantly gave up on builds and bailed. Kim our of frustration joked, the team was a stunting nightmare and asked if I could go help with the younger team, “work my magic”.   Never one to say no, or turn down a stunting challenge, I agreed.

Boo showed up at our next game and I asked my kids a favor. I asked a few of my more experienced bases to put her up so I could see what she was like in the air. I was hoping with the help of my girls, the ones she looked up to and admired, together we could start chipping away at her fear of being dropped. Give her the confidence to go back in the air and fly. The first time the girls tried to put her up, she bent her leg, crumpled and came right back down.  I saw the panic in her eyes as they took her up, much faster than she was used to. I told them to try again. 
As she stood in her load in position, her head was down, shoulders dropped; I had seen that look before, that was the position of giving up. I knew it didn’t matter who was under her, she did not trust herself or them, she was afraid. I told Boo to look me in the eyes. I ran through the basics, always keep her head and eyes up, shoulders and hips squared, elbows up so she could push off, then prep, and stand up and lock the leg out. It was a piece of cake she just had to want to do it.  I lifted her chin, smiled and assured her, she could do it. I would never let her get hurt; she had my girls underneath her, she would not hit the ground as long as I was around.  She could do it, I had enough faith in her for the both of us. I reminded her, a single leg lib is a simple build. Next I asked my girls to take her up slow and keep her up there until I said bring her back down.
This time she stood up, my girls had her fully extended but once she was up, she kept bending her knee, trying to bail, force my girls to bring her down. My girls even more stubborn than I am, followed my instructions and refused to sweep her. Every time she bent her knee, waved her arms, one of my taller kids extra spotting would push her butt back up, forcing her to stand up. I stood in front, instructing her, keep your head up, lock your leg, don’t swing your arms, you are up there, you can do this, you are not coming down until you lock it out and stand.  Elizabeth who was basing her, yelled, “You are light. We can stay here all night so just lock your leg out.”  Boo finally steadied herself and stood in perfect lib. I gave her a thumbs up, yelled "That’s it you are doing it!"  As promised once she hit and held the lib I gave my bases the 1,2 to cradle (bring her down, catch her).  I saw a huge smile when they caught her, and that confirmed her heart loved to fly but her brain was afraid of falling.   

As long as the heart is in the game, you can eventually get the brain to get with the program.  I told my girls, load up do it again, reminded her to lock out, show everyone watching she was a flyer.  I reminded her if she wanted to be one of my kids one day,  number one rule, don’t give up, fight for every build.  We went through the drill several times, load in, up, hold, cradle.  The more she hit the happier she became, I still remember her yelling at her Dad to take her picture. She was proud; so was I.

The following week I showed up at her practice to help their coach work on team stunting.  I watched as my Boo loaded up, bend her leg and fall before she ever got close to standing up. Each time I would correct her bases, correct her form and say let’s do this again. It was obvious, she was scared and her bases were scared. Her entire group was defeated they had no faith in themselves or each other. They were giving up before they even started.

I pulled Boo aside to give her a personal pep talk. I reminded her she could fly, she had flown with my girls; she was beautiful in the air. If she could fly with my girls, there was no reason why she could fly with her team. She was always in control, it was up to her if she hit or she fell. She tried to give me the excuse, it was her bases they always give up first. I explained, her bases were afraid because she was afraid. How would she like to be a base, and be under a girl who constantly gave up?  Fear was contagious and so was fearless.  She controlled which one her group would be infected by. Instead of giving up she needed to fight, she needed lead, to show everyone underneath her she was not afraid, they could do it together. I could tell by her expressions she was still not convinced. Again, she gave me the excuse her bases moved, it was hard to stand, she was afraid they were going to drop her, she would hit the floor again. 

As a coach, my kids will tell you I use some really ‘different’ analogies for my motivational talks. I use what pops in my brain at the time, which at times can be a bit interesting. 
It was raining outside so I asked her if she was afraid of Thunderstorms, she rolled her eyes and said not since she was a little kid.  I explained she could always be a mist of a boo, the flyer who comes down in a simple drizzle or she could become a BOOM, the flyer who goes up and stays up even in a heavy thunderstorm.  She needed to think of her bases as the wind, the wind doesn’t stand still, it always moves and shifts. No matter how much her bases shifted, she had to be fearless, lock her leg out and stand up.  Thunder never stopped or gave up because the wind was moving. I always believed the stronger the wind the louder the boom. As a flyer, the more her bases moved the stronger she had to be. No matter what was going on underneath her, she had to be fearless, squeeze everything and lock out. If she did that, her bases could get her up and keep her up. I added personally I thought she was more of a Boom than a Boo. In fact after watching her fly with my girls I knew she was a Boom, she just needed to see it to. Have faith.

I patted her on her back and sent her back to her build group. They loaded up and down she came.  I told them it was okay, made a few corrections and adjustments, then before I said 1,2 I heard her small voice say, “We can do this.”  Once again she came down. Not allowing the frustration to build, I told them it was okay, that is what practice is for, to learn, falling was a part of learning. I lifted Boo's chin, smiled at her and instead of hanging her head back down, this time she said a little louder, “We can do this.”   By the end of the night, her constant, we can do it, her determination caught on and her stunt group was hitting and staying up. More importantly they were smiling and starting to gain confidence they were missing before. They even learned to twist in a half.  When I left, I gave my boo and her group each a high five and I told her to keep booming away. 

I would go back to her practice several more times, helping them learn and master new stunts. I will never forget at counties; watching my little bitty flyer who weeks before was terrified of stunting, hit all her builds. She ran off the floor with a huge smile, gave me a high five, a hug and proudly announced "I am officially a Boom."
My little boom never cheered for me, her father was in the Army and they were reassigned/moved the following year.

After reminiscing, I asked her after all these years why she called? I was happy she called but technically I was never her coach so her call truly surprised me.
She explained, she was home on leave before being deployed. She was helping her mom go through some old boxes, organize her things, when she came across some of her old cheerleading photographs and papers.  My cell phone number was on the bottom of one of the GORC contact sheets.  She was happy I still had the same number. I confessed that is why I always kept it, so my kids could always find me no matter how long it had been.

She was excited to learn I was still coaching. She envied my girls; she had always wanted to cheer on my squad.  She told me she cheered in high school, was a flyer and I would be proud she never bailed, she always fought to stay up. It didn't matter how many times she was dropped, she stayed fearless and got back up.  She always remembered to lead with confidence not fall with fear.

She called because she wanted to let me know when she was in OCS (officer candidate school) there were times she was tired, hurt, sore, ready to give up, for some reason she reflected back to her days at GORC and my crazy faith in her.  She reminded herself, she was always a Boom she never again wanted to be the mist of a boo that gave up. 

She wanted me to know how much it meant to her that I took time to talk to her, encourage and work with her. In her eyes I was the cool coach, I taught the older girls. She would watch the interaction I had with my cheerleaders at football games, the fun we shared and she wanted to be one of my girls. In a way I was her idol, she looked up to me, my girls and I paid attention to her, made her feel special and taught her she could do anything. Before she deployed she wanted to make sure I understood how much it helped her grow. 

Sometimes we never realize, it’s the moments, the conversations, the practices we forget. They are inconsequential at the time. We never recognize its the small tidbits of our life that can have the biggest impact on another’s.  

For most of my adult life I have coached either gymnastics or cheerleading.  I have worked with hundreds of children. I teach them for a few years and as in all things in life, they move on, they leave me. As a coach, I hope, I pray I have had a positive influence on them; I have been able to help them grow, reach their full potential.

Without a doubt, my kids have helped me to become a better me, a better coach and I pray I have done the same for them.  I hope they always look back with laughter and smiles at the times we worked, played, and accomplished many goals together, as a team.

I confess there are days when I leave practice and I am never quite sure if I used the right words, if I am really reaching them, are they listening, and I wonder all things a coach wonders.

…then the phone rings and a voice from my past is there reminding me exactly why I coach. Confirmation, crazy analogies and all I am not doing such a bad job.
Today's phone call also reminded me how neglectful I have been.

When I coach, instruct,encourage, give my crazy speeches and pep talks, it's not just me; the words, the methods are all formed from the influences of my past coaches, friends and teachers. I think it's about time I let those wonderfully special people know how much they have meant in my life. How much of what they taught me, I have absorbed and passed on to my kids. It really is a wonderful legacy we coaches share. 

So maybe a great resolution for 2013, is to reach back, remind all the people in our past how much they have meant to us.  How much they have influenced us all. 

Happy New Year everyone!! Be safe and God Bless.   


  1. :-) i couldnt figure out how to get my url up here so Im anonymously yours dinker doodle lol its not just the girls whom you coach that your pep talks me Ive been getting them since 7th grade

  2. "Dinker Doodle" hey Mary...and reverse is true as well. You have helped me navigate through some pretty rough times in my life and still do. Love you

  3. This story is just one of the reasons why I am so glad we reconnected. You are an inspiration of what is true and meaningful in life. Making a difference with others who will accept help and cut out excuses and believe things are possible. You touch others lives in a way that is so special and wonderful. I am so happy you share your thoughts with us in this blog.