Cheerleading is a tough sport, and that means cheer coaches have to be up to the challenge of leading their squads through intense practices and fierce competitions. Coaching cheer doesn’t just mean running tryouts and practices and standing on the sidelines; it’s a commitment to the physical and emotional highs and lows of the season and beyond. Coaches new and old, if you ever feel yourself overwhelmed, remember these three qualities of great cheer coaches: 1. YOU are this squad’s biggest cheerleader! Yes, your cheerleaders can get a crowd pumped like it’s nobody’s business, but they look to you as their leader. Celebrate victories big and small; a new stunt group tossing its first basket is exciting, and so is your top tumbler sticking the landing after a complex running pass. Nobody knows how hard your squad works better than you. Make sure your cheerleaders know how much you appreciate their hard work and how proud you are of their progress. 2. Health and safety always come first. Every coach should have a first aid kit and the knowledge to back it up. Cheer demands a lot of its athletes, and injuries do happen. Be sure that practice is organized so that risk of injury is minimal, and always have first aid tools and water on hand. Work your way up to harder tumbling and stunting, and keep plenty of spots around. Health and safety aren’t just physical, either; let your squad members know they can always come to you with a problem, or text or call you if they’re more comfortable that way. 3. You aren’t alone. No matter age or experience, we always have questions and concerns. Everyone you work with wants to see the squad succeed, from the members of the team itself to parents and athletic organizers. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others to coordinate a plan that will benefit the team, and don’t feel like you have to carry the full responsibility of leading alone. Yes, being a cheer coach is a big responsibility, but reaching out to others around you and making connections will always benefit the squad. If a parent can help drive some cheerleaders to a game, or if there’s a snag in the schedule and you’re hoping to swap practice hours with another team for a week, don’t be afraid to speak up. Colleagues and friends won’t turn away when you ask for help or advice. Every squad is different, so every coach will be different, too. You may find in your experience that you create your own guidelines for being a successful coach. Just like when your squad is learning a new routine, though, when coaches find themselves overwhelmed or unsure, you can always go back to the basics. Be positive, stay safe, and reach out. You can’t go wrong.