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Posts Tagged ‘motivation’

Motivating a Cheerleading Team – Part II

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

If we are smart, we try to learn from people smarter than us!  Cheerleading coaches have tough (and rewarding) jobs.  One of the best athletic coaches ever – John Wooden – was a master motivator.  Here is some more of his wisdom.  (more…)

How can cheerleading coaches motivate their team?

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Yesterday I wrote about cheerleading coaches who yell at their cheerleaders.  I suspect many do this because they truly believe it is a way to motivate athletes.  But does it work?  (more…)

Mid-season Reality Check for Cheerleaders and Cheer Coaches

Tuesday, December 29th, 2009

For some cheerleading squads, January means it’s time for the mid-season blahs. Perhaps some of the excitement of the cheer season has waned and fatigue and complacency have set in. 

A good coach will be tuned in to his or her squad’s mental and physical states.  Along with complacency comes increased distractibility and with that come falls and injuries.  It’s always critical to keep the team focused on the task at hand – especially during the mid-season blahs. 

Cheer coaches might want to be on the look-out for their athletes’ motivation and enthusiasm levels decreasing.  Typical signs are: cheerleaders finding it harder to get to practice on time; chatting more and focusing less on practice; and there may be a lethargy that seeps in to the practice sessions; finally, there may be increased irritability and more complaining and whining. 

What to do?  Get them involved.  You can start off the year with a chart that keeps track of things like motivation, energy level, enthusiasm, focus, etc.  So on a scale of 1 – 10 (with 1 = very low and 10 being wow! Super high) ask each cheerleader to rate herself on these dimensions. Plot it out on a simple graph so they can see when they are slumping. 

If they are involved with monitoring their mood and energy, etc. from the beginning, they will be more attuned to these dimensions and be more likely to be open to discussing what to do about it.  Even very young children can learn how to assess their energy and spirit.  Coaches can engage the team in a frank discussion about what to do about slumping energy.  The team involvement is a key to success.

What do you do to keep your squad motivated?  Please share your secrets!

Cheerleading Coaches: How do you praise your team?

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

It happens every day.  You, as a cheerleading coach, are constantly giving feedback to your squad as you observe them in practice. But did you know that the way you offer praise can affect the motivation of your cheerleaders? 

Psychology professor, Carol Dweck, studied what happens when people praise others for ability versus praising for effort and the effect this has on young people’s motivation and performance. 

The results showed that 90% of young people who were praised for effort (“you worked really hard on this;” “your persistence is helping you succeed,”) wanted to perform tasks which were challenging and from which they could learn (and not necessarily immediately succeed). 

Two-thirds of young people praised for ability wanted to carry out a task which ensured further success; they weren’t as interested in being challenged.  

When both groups were given a set of harder problems, the students who were praised for their ability (“you are so smart;”  “you are really good at this”) reported the least enjoyment. They were also the least likely to take problems home to work on.  Also, the students who were praised for their ability (not effort) demonstrated considerable negativity after failure (“I am stupid”) even though they had had a previous string of successes! 

The group that had been praised for ability also showed a significant decline in performance compared to those who had been praised for effort

The group that had been praised on effort continued to enjoy the task even when they encountered problems and they were more likely to persist when they confronted challenges. This group (effort) on the whole performed much better than the other group (ability). 

How does this translate to cheerleading?  Well, I would suggest cheer coaches will enjoy more success with their cheerleaders when they praise them for their efforts rather than their abilities.  Why should this be true?  Effort is something we can control.  We either exert effort to learn, to improve, to refine, or we do not.  It’s a matter of choice.  Ability is innate; we either have it or not and thus we cannot control it per se.

So take note of how you give feedback to your cheerleaders.  It’s fine to say, “good job!” or “great focus on that last jump” but be wary of saying, “you’re the best flyer we’ve ever had.”  Even if this is true, add to this: “…your focus and practice time is paying off; you’re really enhancing your natural talent by all your hard work.”

Motivation and Discipline: Cheerleaders Need Both!

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

The best cheerleaders have ample supplies of motivation and discipline.  I like to think of motivation as being the “why” you do something.  The bigger the “why” the more determined you will be to do the necessary work to succeed. 

I came across the following quote in the Handbook for The 7 Biggest Teen Problems and How to Turn Them into Strengths by Bobbi DePorter: 

“We make a distinction between motivation and discipline: Motivation is doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, when we want to do it.  Discipline is doing what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, when we don’t want to do it.” 

Of course it’s easier to forge ahead when you’re excited about something and when you can see immediate payoff but the true champion has both motivation and discipline.  A true champion is able to see the big picture and recognize that hard work now and over time will pay off in the future.

Mental Blocks in Cheerleading Can Ruin Your Day – Part I

Monday, February 16th, 2009

While exploring the forum on the site – All About Cheerleading, I came across a question written by a cheerleader who has a “mental block” throwing her full. She wrote that she found her fulls easy to do when her team is warming up in the corners but then “blocks” when they do their whole routine. She has to do a pass through 3 other girls which is “scary” for her. 

This cheerleader said that this is “taking a lot of mental energy” as it is “all I think about”   and it’s frustrating for her. She gets mad at herself because she is a “perfectionist.”

Well, as a psychologist and peak performance coach, this caught my interest and I thought I would use her concern as the basis of a blog post – maybe a few!

Where to begin?  I think I’ll focus on the perfectionist problem today.

Perfectionism in itself is not necessarily a problem.  On a positive note, perfectionism can drive a cheerleader (or anyone) to work hard and persevere in the face of discouragement. So, perfectionism can be the fuel that motivates a cheerleader to succeed especially when it is accompanied by commitment, persistence, and attention to detail.  

 A healthy perfectionist can take pleasure in the effort taken to achieve success.

But sometimes, perfectionism isn’t so good for you!  This is true if you are unable to feel satisfaction because you can never believe what you do is good enough or if you are striving towards unrealistic goals. 

 There is an important distinction between striving towards excellence versus perfection. The former is realistic and possible; the latter is rarely possible and more likely to lead to frustration and heartache and in some instances – depression.

In cheerleading, the road to perfecting a stunt or routine is riddled with bumps and potholes. Mistakes are inevitable and, as I’ve mentioned in this forum many times, the best attitude to have towards mistakes is to view them as opportunities to learn and grow.

So here is how I would advise this cheerleader: You are missing out on an opportunity to learn something about yourself that can be valuable to you.  A true champion sees a mistake as information, as data that can be used to learn and to improve!

I would invite you to step back and practice saying this phrase over and over – “Isn’t it interesting that…” and fill in the blank.  So, for example, you could say, “Isn’t it interesting that I can successfully throw a full alone but not with my team mates during our routine.  I wonder why that is?”

If you do this, you will be creating some distance and objectivity to your situation which will help you see the situation more clearly and with less negative emotion.  You become a scientist, filled with curiosity about this problem.  Your goal becomes searching for a solution to the problem which is now more clearly defined which is – there is a difference in your ability to throw a full during a routine versus during a solo practice.

The next question becomes: what is the difference or what are the different variables between the 2 conditions? You are the same cheerleader in both situations, right? It isn’t that you are not physically capable of throwing a full since you are able to do so when practicing alone.

 So what is it about executing this move with your squad that interferes with your ability to nail it?

To help you figure it out, here are some possibilities: you are allowing yourself to get distracted by the movements of your team mates; you have “spooked yourself” into believing that you cannot do it in these circumstances; you are more focused on your negative internal conversation than on executing the move.  Do any of these ring true?

This is a beginning.  Tomorrow I will pick up here and continue.


By the way – are you on Facebook? If so, please be my friend and join my Facebook group – Confident Cheerleading!

Mental Toughness is Key to Success

Friday, September 26th, 2008

What does it take to be the best? 

What are the factors that contribute to excellence? 

Think you know?  Sports psychologists say that anywhere from 50 – 90% of success in high level sports can be attributed to mental factors known collectively as Mental Toughness. 

Mental Toughness doesn’t mean being aggressive or, well, tough in a rough-tough-mean way. I like to think of Mental Toughness as the ability to perform at an optimal level no matter what the circumstances. 

Interested in seeing how you rate on the 8 Mental Toughness factors?  Great! Go ahead and rate yourself on all the dimensions below. 

And stay tuned for lots more about this topic including some tips on how to improve your scores! 

Mental Toughness Checklist 

Evaluate your own Mental Toughness capacities by rating each factor on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being low, 5 being average, and 10 being very high. 

1. Championship mind-set

(Open to feedback about your performance.) 


2. Concentration

(Ability to stay focused on task and not get distracted.) 


3. Composure

(Poised and self-assured in high stakes situations.) 


4. Come-back from mistakes

(Ability to bounce back quickly and let go of set-backs/mistakes.) 


5. Clarity about motivation

(Knowing what you want and why you want it.) 


6. Commitment

(Dedicating yourself to a course of action.) 


7. Confidence

(Belief in your ability to perform well.) 


8. Courage

(Quality of spirit that enables you to take on challenges.)